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Nina Teicholz: Why are We Basing Food Policy on Black Box Data?

re: unsettled science

Nina Teicholz is the author of The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat, and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet @AMAZON, on my recommended reading list.

Read the whole article (long). It is replete with verifiable claims, quite refreshing.

Nina Teicholz: Why are We Basing Food Policy on Black Box Data?


This news item is about a $380 million, influential study backed by the Gates Foundation, which is informing global health policies yet turns out to be producing highly unreliable numbers on the health risks of foods—red meat, especially. The study authors acknowledge that some numbers in a recent paper were inaccurate, yet they do not plan to correct or retract the paper.

Why are We Basing Food Policy on Black Box Data?

It turns out that a highly influential 2019 claim—that no amount of unprocessed red meat is safe for health—was completely inaccurate, according to a statement in March by the authors of the Global Burdens of Disease study (GBD), an on-going project funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Two years earlier, in 2017, these same authors had judged red meat to be the least likely cause of death among 15 risk factors analyzed. Then, in 2019, red-meat’s risk jumped 36-fold. A forthcoming publication will correct these errors, and the risk will drop significantly, said the lead author Christopher Murray, in an interview. Despite the inaccuracies, however, he says he does not intend to correct or retract the paper.

...Indeed, the 2019 paper, what IHME calls its “capstone publication,” has, as of this writing, been cited by 861 papers and 13 policy documents, including the UK National Food Policy--which states that red and processed meats are responsible for 29% of all diet-related deaths and disabilities, a statistic based on the flawed 2019 GBD paper.  

Altering the world’s diet along these lines is intended to stop global warming, yet anyone can agree that global policy affecting human health ought to have a foundation in reliable data. With the still-rising epidemics of obesity and diabetes, we can’t afford false steps. In this light, GBD’s wildly fluctuating food-risk estimates look perilous.

...In fact, other food risks calculated by GBD also changed dramatically from 2017 to 2019. The risk of salt dropped by 40%, while risks attributed to diets low in fruit, nuts and seeds, vegetables, seafood omega-3 fatty acids, and polyunsaturated fatty acids declined by more than 50%.

The letter to the Lancet was a wake-up call on these issues. It “raises serious questions about the methods and results of the GBD project and their estimates related to diet,” wrote Yusuf, although he also emphasized his belief that Murray is committed to good science and that collaborations with outside scientists in the future could lead to more robust results and conclusions.


WIND: the crap that passes for science these days is really about manipulating the public.

The only rational viewpoint in the face of this onslaught on science is to start out by assuming that it is ALL bullshit, which it almost certainly is almost all of the time. Follow the money will rarely if ever fail you in life.

The Lancet, once respected, has become just another propaganda tool and political opinion outlet, now engaging not just in publishing bad “science” but active political expression. Witness that latest editorial on abortion rights, trans rights, etc (regardless of your viewpoint on those matters, they are unfit for a scientific journal). The Lancet has become a festering pustule on science.

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