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posted by janrinok on Wednesday February 04 2015, @03:51PM   Printer-friendly
from the I'll-never-close-my-eyes-again dept.

Scott Adams of Dilbert fame writes on his blog that science's biggest fail of all time is 'everything about diet and fitness':

I used to think fatty food made you fat. Now it seems the opposite is true. Eating lots of peanuts, avocados, and cheese, for example, probably decreases your appetite and keeps you thin. I used to think vitamins had been thoroughly studied for their health trade-offs. They haven’t. The reason you take one multivitamin pill a day is marketing, not science. I used to think the U.S. food pyramid was good science. In the past it was not, and I assume it is not now. I used to think drinking one glass of alcohol a day is good for health, but now I think that idea is probably just a correlation found in studies.

According to Adams, the direct problem of science is that it has been collectively steering an entire generation toward obesity, diabetes, and coronary problems. But the indirect problem might be worse: It is hard to trust science because it has a credibility issue that it earned. "I think science has earned its lack of credibility with the public. If you kick me in the balls for 20-years, how do you expect me to close my eyes and trust you?"

 
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  • (Score: 5, Insightful) by sjames on Wednesday February 04 2015, @07:21PM

    by sjames (2882) on Wednesday February 04 2015, @07:21PM (#141276) Journal

    It points to the problem, but wait, there's more!

    A study found that eggs have a lot of cholesterol and concluded eggs are bad for you. Problem 1, that conclusion was well over-stated since they had no evidence that cholesterol in food = cholesterol in blood. All they had was a reasonable but wrong conjecture. That one is on science (or at least a couple practitioners of it. Then the media uncritically shouted it from the rooftops. Next up, the medical profession as a whole accepted it at face value and uncritically parroted the conclusion. Then the nutritionists uncritically parroted the prevailing opinion of the medical community. Then various food processors only too happily came up with low cholesterol food-like products and carpet bombed us with ads all pointing back to nutritionists and the medical community as the basis of their claims.

    Not to worry, there's more blame to go around! How about all those schools with 'science' classes that didn't teach their students enough to understand that some skepticism was called for in all of that? I had a few really good teachers who DID but apparently most did not. Finally the various health related government agencies who had no clue about it but felt they should say something in order to remain relevant so they parroted the medical community.

    As for the rest of the scientific community, nobody took a few moments to remind everyone that nobody in that bandwagon was actually a scientist (though a few play one on TV) and none of them have any idea what they're talking about.

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  • (Score: 3, Interesting) by hubie on Wednesday February 04 2015, @10:11PM

    by hubie (1068) on Wednesday February 04 2015, @10:11PM (#141333) Journal

    As for the rest of the scientific community, nobody took a few moments to remind everyone that nobody in that bandwagon was actually a scientist

    If it were only that easy. Scientists speak out all the time about stuff and they are routinely ignored or marginalized by the media and public in general. That kind of stuff is uninteresting. You have 99% of the scientific community jumping up and down and waiving their hands about climate change, and it's a non-story unless you want to sell some sort of scandalous angle to it. Or consider oat bran. In the late 80's there was a study that showed oat bran lowered your bad cholesterol. What happened was exactly what is shown in that Ph.D. comics [phdcomics.com] someone else posted. Imagine, a wonder food that you can eat that lowers your cholesterol (or, if it was today: lower your risk of heart attack by eating this one special food). It got whipped into a media frenzy and food producers sprinkled it on everything and shoved oat bran products on the market. All perspective was lost. Eventually the market got over-saturated with oat bran products and claims which triggered a backlash. When it was eventually showed that it wasn't just oat bran, but fiber in general, that spawned another media frenzy about how it is all a lie and it turns into a good old fashioned media witch hunt (you got these egg-head scientist types, the interests of the big evil corporations, etc. all sorts of juicy story stuff to tell). The takeaway for Scott Adams, at least for this case, is that science lied to him.

    I disagree pretty strongly with Adams on this. The lion's share of the fault falls on us, fed by the media. Next to clothing fashion, food and diets have to be the second in line for likelihood of turning into a raging fad. Most of us don't eat healthy, or we're guilty because we don't think we eat healthy. Most of us believe we are fat and out of shape, and we're afraid of dying. The way to fix almost all of those issues is to eat a decent diet and get your exercise. But decent diets are boring and exercise is hard work. However, this fella over here says he lost a lot of weight eating a bunch of grapefruit, and this other fella over there says that not only can you eat all the butter and bacon you want, it is actually good for you! Maybe they try to base it on some study, but it doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if the medical profession by and large says, no, I don't think you should eat that much bacon. People don't want to hear that, all they want to know is if they eat a bunch of grapefruit, the pounds will magically melt away (or their arteries will clear up, or whatever). It's all or nothing. And when people find out that this diet doesn't work for them, they sell their cow to the next guy with a bag of magic beans.

    • (Score: 3, Informative) by sjames on Wednesday February 04 2015, @11:07PM

      by sjames (2882) on Wednesday February 04 2015, @11:07PM (#141346) Journal

      You're letting a lot of frauds off the hook and blaming the least qualified people, all based on one line of what I wrote. This is me calling Mr. sound bite out for bad reporting :-)

      What of the doctors who jump on the bandwagon? They do have the necessary education to make the judgement call, but there they are on the bandwagon. The nutritionists? It';s their entire job description to know better!

      What would we do with a tax accountant who told his clients "Yes, it's totally OK to deduct the cost of your daily starbucks as a medical expense!".

      That's a lot of people who are EXPECTED to know better but don't. The rest of the people are completely in the right to stop trusting them as a whole. Clearly they aren't up to the job. They certainly are presented as scientists (or at least well educated in science so they can act as it's spokesmen).

      Why do you think it is that people ignore the doctor who says "I don't think you should eat that much bacon"? It's because the diet he recommended last time tasted like sweetened cardboard and turned out to be a leading cause of type 2 diabetes. The bacon guy's diet probably isn't a good idea but at least that one doesn't make you miserable until the preventable disease shows up.

      You are probably expecting too much if you expect the average person to see right through the bad studies written up to snow a peer review (successfully). Effectively, you demand that the average man on the street be a better scientist than a peer review panel.

      • (Score: 1, Redundant) by hubie on Wednesday February 04 2015, @11:47PM

        by hubie (1068) on Wednesday February 04 2015, @11:47PM (#141359) Journal

        I"m not asking people to study and see through medical studies, I'm asking them to realize there is no magic bullet easy way out. It is the same thing your grandfather has been saying, and his grandfather too, about the need to put in the work, there are no easy answers, if it looks too good to be true, etc. I'm also not expecting people will follow common sense, because, at least when it comes to health, it doesn't happen. There are a variety of reasons people don't get enough exercise, don't eat well, etc., and really everyone knows that they need to eat right and exercise, but they're willing time and time again to take a shot at the next person that comes along that tells them they don't need to put in the effort, all they need to do is to take a pill, or eat a food, or whatever. We fool ourselves, and I think we also don't really expect it to work, but, what if it does? Maybe, just maybe, I don't need to go to the gym three times a week, I'll give this a try.

        I think this is the reason that people ignore sensible advice from anyone, whether it is from doctors or anyone else. It is the same thing you see in politics. People listen and believe first to what they want to believe. Who are you going to vote for, the guy who says we need to roll up our sleeves and make sacrifices, or the guy who says you don't need to make sacrifices and in fact, I'll cut your taxes to boot? The guy who says you need to get off your ass and get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise in a day, or the guy who says you just need to take this pill and make no changes to your current lifestyle?

        I don't know much about nutritionists, but I feel very comfortable saying that most doctors are going to recommend the best thing for the majority of their patients to do is eat well and exercise. They don't push fad diets unless either they have a stake in the game, or their patient is insisting on something that goes beyond eating well and exercising. There's plenty of blame to cast on this topic, but I still feel the bulk of it falls on us. When they sprinkle a few grams of oat bran on a Twinkie, if you feed the hype machine by snarfing down a box of them thinking you can somehow do it guilt-free, then it is hard to lay the blame elsewhere. If these things weren't chased with such fervor and the message taken in moderation, that would be one thing, but when it comes to health topics people don't act very rationally.

        • (Score: 3, Informative) by sjames on Thursday February 05 2015, @03:14AM

          by sjames (2882) on Thursday February 05 2015, @03:14AM (#141408) Journal

          How are these people supposed to know what constitutes eating right when their doctor and their nutritionist keep jumping on every kooky bandwagon? Who is supposed to tell them what is 'right'? Their health teacher from back in high school who is also on the bandwagon (and is probably a PE teacher, not a medical professional or nutritionist)? Certainly they weren't born knowing what to eat.

          Clearly they need to look to some other source to know what might constitute eating right. That's what Adams is saying.

          They are now ignoring doctors because the advice they got from their doctor turned out to NOT be sensible at all.

          • (Score: 1, Redundant) by etherscythe on Thursday February 05 2015, @09:03PM

            by etherscythe (937) on Thursday February 05 2015, @09:03PM (#141648) Journal

            We all need to be responsible for ourselves. What I mean is, nobody gets more out of your life than you do, and any of your life choices can be guided by common knowledge, but you need to know your limitations and, specifically, how your body uniquely responds to different foods, medications, and exercise. So, whether any particular technique or diet or product is good for you needs to be viewed through the lens of your life experience. If a nutritionist knows what your diet needs to be better than you do without even knowing your lifestyle - you're doing it wrong.

            So, yes, vegetables are good for you for obvious reasons, but don't eat the ones you're allergic to, and select for the ones with the proportion of vitamins you need. Don't use margarine, because that stuff is NOT healthier for you than butter... unless it is, because of a dairy intolerance, or whatever else. Pay attention, and apply the scientific knowledge which applies to your situation.

            The only problem is that people don't want to think, don't want to do the work of keeping track of these things, they want someone else to do their thinking for them. And so the media carries the power to give the official record of the state of science, 30 seconds at a time.

            --
            "Fake News: anything reported outside of my own personally chosen echo chamber"
            • (Score: 2) by sjames on Thursday February 05 2015, @09:45PM

              by sjames (2882) on Thursday February 05 2015, @09:45PM (#141657) Journal

              Again, styep 1 is to tune out the advertisers, government agencies, doctors and nutritionists. That leaves Grandma I guess.