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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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September 14, 2009

Weighing the Evidence: Science and Anecdote in Nutrition Studies

By Mark Sisson
88 Comments

I was a science major (biology) in college, yet I have always been a little suspicious of the use of the “scientific method” when it comes to biological systems – especially humans. I guess it started when we were all taught in labs as far back as high school to strictly adhere to the scientific method, which generally goes as follows:

  1. Ask a question
  2. Formulate a hypothesis
  3. Perform an experiment
  4. Collect and organize data
  5. Draw a conclusion

But from those earliest lab experiences, I found it was pretty sketchy to draw conclusions based on what often appeared to be nothing more than some random set of data points. Weigh the excised thymus of irradiated rats and plot a line that shows the rate of atrophy, etc…I wanted black and white answers, solid trend lines and reliable conclusions but usually all I got was an ill-defined line that was different from what my lab peers got, sometimes by a little, sometimes by a lot. Yes or no, right or wrong was what I sought – but that’s not how science works. It works more like this: the prevailing science is deemed good or acceptable until something or someone proves that it’s not good any more. Hey, that sounds like Conventional Wisdom. (Remember how fats were good for a million years, then they were bad for a few decades, and now they are good again…all based on the latest science?)

My skepticism has only grown over the years as my own experience in sports drug-testing (I was the Anti-doping Commissioner for the sport of triathlon worldwide for over a decade) showed me first-hand how unreliable certain complex testing systems could often be, and how a few wavy lines on a graph indicating a difference of a few parts per billion in a test could sometimes needlessly end a promising career or allow someone else to skate by unethically. More recently, I have been disappointed at how bad many current medical diagnoses are, even using the latest high-tech, most expensive equipment. (I will relate in detail in a coming post how the “gold-standard” body fat testing equipment erroneously pegged my own body fat at 16.9% – twice what it likely is.) Finally, I am noticing an increase in the number of “retractions” in scientific journals, where peer-reviewed studies are found to have been falsified or erroneous (last month a major 2003 genetic study that had been cited as an authority in 140 subsequent papers was retracted). I suspect that with pressure to publish and the complexity of designing studies these days, a not-insignificant amount of work gets published that probably shouldn’t – like many drug trials, for instance.

Through all the hard science, you may have also noticed that for every study that says that X is likely true, there’s usually another one that says, no, X is likely not true. Even hard science has its biases. And don’t forget correlation is not causation.

Of course, this skepticism of science can become an issue when one puts forth the hypothesis – as I have here – that “Primal Blueprint eating and lifestyle adjustments will result in superior health outcomes for humans”. Obviously, many people want to see the hard science. They want to see data points, charts and graphs and conclusions before they embark on such an unproven adventure. They want double blind crossover studies done in bariatric (my spell-check just wanted me to correct that to “barbaric”) wards or room-sized calorimeters. But all of that is not likely to be done anytime soon. That is, 100% conclusive evidence isn’t immediately forthcoming. And meanwhile the world is going to hell in an obese hand basket. So I now propose to you that sometimes anecdotal “evidence” can be nearly as valid as the “hard science.”

Now don’t get me wrong. We have to start with some basis in arguable facts. And I believe the facts clearly point to a Primal lifestyle for health and longevity. There is strong, solid science in favor of the Primal Blueprint. I’ve presented it here (on MDA) and in my book and many others have done likewise with their books and websites. But what happens when new science is difficult to decipher? When the media sensationalizes and distorts the conclusions? When there is no clear message but only an endless series of murky, conflicting results? I often get these questions from readers trying to make sense of it all, and though I still point to the science I also understand that there are other ways to weigh the evidence.

You see, biological systems are – to say the least – non-linear, and humans are certainly among the most complex of any organisms subject to review. In human studies, confounding variables often make it extremely difficult (almost impossible) to truly isolate or identify the one variable that might provide a benefit (or at least a measurable effect). Of course, that makes it doubly ironic that much of today’s Conventional Wisdom is based on snapshot observations from short-term and only partially controlled studies. For example, as we have discussed here ad nauseum, most “meat is unhealthy for you” studies don’t account for amount and types of carbs, as well as antioxidant intake and exercise, as well as the composition of the meat, as well as (yes, I said it) the family genetic history, and so on ad infinitum. To do so – to isolate all these variables and account for their very real interactions – would be wickedly expensive, if not impossible.

So we are left in some cases with anecdotal reports. But if you have enough of them, I say you have what you need to make a legitimate informed decision regarding whether or not this lifestyle is for you. My friends Drs. Michael and Mary Dan Eades can point to thousands of patients over decades that they have put on low carb, primarily meat-based diets with great success. You could even call it one big experiment, albeit without a control group. (I guess the controls would be all the family and friends that didn’t embark on the diet). They didn’t necessarily set this up as a study, but they most certainly collected detailed data in monitoring their patients over the course of weeks, months or years. And they found that an overwhelming majority of these people lost weight in the form of body fat and experienced improvements in blood lipids. Thousands of them.

I was fascinated by some of the detailed reports from participants in our own latest 30-day Primal Challenge. We eventually heard from over 400 people, almost all of whom related an experience of increased well-being in one form or another: lost body fat, increased muscle strength, more energy, fewer colds, improvement in blood glucose or blood lipids, etc. Now most true scientists I know would take these results and throw them all out, saying that there was no real “control group” nor was this a “double blind” study (where neither the subjects nor the researchers would have known which program they were on? – yeah, right) and that this “proves” nothing. Who knows, maybe only the people reporting were those with positive results and all the rest were unsuccessful and didn’t feel like writing to us. But I would like to think that in this case, we have enough anecdotal evidence to corroborate the intuitive recognition (and supports the existing scientific literature) that when we eat and move and live as our genes evolved and expect us to, it will almost always result in an improvement in our condition.

For extra credit, read “Why I am Not a Scientist” by Jonathan Marks.

I’d love to hear your thoughts. How do you weigh the evidence (both scientific and anecdotal) when making personal health decisions? Hit me up with a comment. Thanks, everyone!

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88 Comments on "Weighing the Evidence: Science and Anecdote in Nutrition Studies"

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SullynNH
7 years 11 days ago
Funny was just mentioning being a systems engineer, this statement you made: “You see, biological systems are – to say the least – non-linear, and humans are certainly among the most complex of any organisms subject to review. In human studies, confounding variables often make it extremely difficult (almost impossible) to truly isolate or identify the one variable that might provide a benefit (or at least a measurable effect).” Made me think of a discussion a recent masters class, where the human dynamic is the most complex part of designing a system, people aren’t rational and don’t perform a “function”… Read more »
Lemmy Caution
Lemmy Caution
7 years 11 days ago

Gary Taubes, who wrote “good calories bad calories”, has an interesting article about epidemiology:

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/09/16/magazine/16epidemiology-t.html?_r=1&ref=magazine

Aaron Blaisdell
7 years 11 days ago
“Now most true scientists I know would take all these results and throw them all out…” I would argue that such scientists were not “true”. A true scientist strives to be open-minded yet skeptical. Be critical of hypotheses (especially one’s own), but only so that supporting evidence can strengthen the case for (or against) it. I see a lot of bad science done these days, but I also see a lot of good science get rejected because the design or outcome wasn’t flawless. Always remember that science is a human endeavor, and humans err, have foibles, and strong biases–even the… Read more »
JamieBelle
JamieBelle
7 years 11 days ago

A good friend of mine is a statistician. I was telling him about my new philosophies on eating. He’s asked to borrow the book so he can look up the referenced authors/studies to read the original sources and determine what the data that have been collected show. So, I will let him do that. It likely won’t change my decision to change my eating habits, but I do respect him as a scientist and someone who can read a journal article and really get it.

Chunster495
Chunster495
7 years 11 days ago

I try to weigh both scientific and anecdotal info as much as possible to a certain degree when making health decisions. I’m definitely not one of those people that’ll look up every single medical reference journal an author sites to validate their point of view…and honestly, if it grasps my attention and I think it’ll bring me some benefit, and the risks don’t seem too bad,.. i kinda just use myself as a guinea pig… so yeah I hope this primal thing doesn’t have any negative effects on me in like 30 years down the road… heh heh.

gcb
gcb
7 years 11 days ago
Actually, the scientific method (as outlined in the article) doesn’t much result in new ideas – it’s valid as a way to test new ideas, but most scientific discoveries are not heralded by “Eureka!” so much as by “That’s funny…” Never underestimate the value of a “thought experiment” – when you hear about a new idea in science, run through the process in your mind, see if it makes sense, and see what the logical outcomes are. For example, when you’re pitching the primal lifestyle to people, it’s generally useful to walk through what happens when you eat a load… Read more »
Lisette
Lisette
7 years 11 days ago
Very well put! I do medical research yet what I see being disseminated through the media has little to do with science and more to do with seizing the quotable and running with it. True scientists are more like kids finding an interesting “bit” and picking it apart/ finding out how it works or whatever but the curiosity is the same. I blame alot of the crap science on the system that says you need X publications for tenure or to retain your job etc. And don’t even get me started on funding! Before I even read a journal article… Read more »
Martin P
Martin P
7 years 11 days ago

The value of word-of-mouth isn’t nearly as high as it used to be. Now that science is accessible through the internet, people seem to take on a “prove it” mentality which sometimes hurts them more than it helps.

paleo_piper
7 years 11 days ago

This is so incredibly true. x__x It seems I can’t even have an opinion these days (Primal or not) without someone telling me I have to back it up. It’s exhausting.

Tony Ingram
5 years 10 months ago

Haha, now when someone tells me to ‘prove it’, I tell them to prove THEIR views (aka CW). They quickly get off their high horse.

tuscoyote
tuscoyote
7 years 11 days ago

There is also the practice of throwing out data sets that don’t match the trends since it must be “experimental error” or an anomoly.

Dave
Dave
7 years 8 days ago

If it’s clearly an outlier, who cares? And if it’s being published, there should be some statistical analysis to justify throwing data away.

Fudged data usually doesn’t hold against scrutiny.

Mick
Mick
7 years 11 days ago

Sir Karl Popper made a great point of falsifiability, pointing out the logic behind that. He also like to relate how Einstein tried to look for experiments that could make-or-break his theories, really put them to the test.

http://www.amazon.com/Logic-Scientific-Discovery-Karl-Popper/dp/041507892X

I can’t help wondering how many researchers in the field of nutrition deliberately try to disprove their own theories. It seems to me that some are setting up innocuous little tests that, with a little interpretation, can do little more than confirm what they’ve already decided.

pieter d
pieter d
7 years 11 days ago

Science should be ‘a method of understanding and a means of establishing facts about the universe’. Scientists use this method.

Unfortunately (sometimes) scientists are only human.

Science is a bit like democracy: it’s not perfect, but do you know another way that is better?

C2H5OH
7 years 11 days ago

Tyranny is much better, see Marcus Aurelius
http://www.corrupt.org/data/files/marcus_aurelius/

Hortense
Hortense
7 years 11 days ago

The key point missing from this article is self-experimentation. We can all serve as our own controls, and it doesn’t matter whether the results generalize to others. If going PB produces noticeable improvements, you can conduct your own ABAB experimental design by resuming your “normal” lifestyle and then returning to PB. It would help to take measurements at each phase, such as body fat composition, to document any changes. If PB works for you, that’s all you really need to care about!

maba
maba
7 years 11 days ago

Thank you Mark for yet another excellent post. I feel like this post was written for me. My husband, a physician and a researcher, while seeing the benefits that Primal Living has brought about in me, was unconvinced about it due to the lack of “controlled/ double-blind” studies. But he is slowly switching sides. Scientific studies are subject to bias and errors but not evolution.

Love the graph (grokph?)!

DML
DML
7 years 11 days ago
I read too much on this topic. I wrote a blog post recently that revealed how obsessed I am with the topics of fitness and nutrition. The number of books I’ve read in the last couple years is amazing. So, what do I ultimately look for? I look for things that real people are using and seeing results. I look for plans that seem realistic. And, I’m willing to experiment. I spent a year as a vegetarian. During that year, I read the Paleo Diet for Athletes. I was having lunch one day in a Chinese restaurant when I read… Read more »
adipocyte
adipocyte
7 years 11 days ago
Ah, poor science. Politics and medicine (which is not scientific) tend to keep it bound and gagged. The scientific method is one of asking a question in such a way that the answer is most likely to be true. The experiment must be based on a falsifiable hypothesis. For instance, you can believe that unicorns exist, but that can never be falsified. You can just keep telling me that unicorns are where I am not looking. However, if I hold the belief that unicorns do NOT exist, this can be falsified: You can show me one. Or, if you can’t,… Read more »
nina_70
nina_70
7 years 11 days ago
I think you missed one critical item on the scientific method list and that’s “get funding”. Unfortunately today’s science is so very closely linked to funding that it is sometimes difficult to find rigorous scientific studies. I was in research for 5 years and know this from personal experience as well as from my other classmates who ended up in research. If you don’t have funding, you have no money to do your research, and if you find results which are at odds with your main sponsor, do you publish? In most cases, unfortunately, the answer is no. I eventually… Read more »
Cherie
Cherie
7 years 11 days ago

One of my favorite movie lines is from “Ghostbusters”. When they get kicked out of the University, Bill Murray comments that they can get private sector jobs. Dan Akroyd replies “Oh, no…I worked in the private sector once; they expect results!”

Hahahaha

rachel allen
7 years 11 days ago

When I eat grains I feel horrible. When I eat primal, I feel great. I tend to do self-studies since it’s easier to put on a pair of slippers than to carpet the whole world.

SerialSinner
SerialSinner
7 years 11 days ago
Science provides us with scenarios of different degrees of certainty. The extent to which these scenarios prove to be useful will depend on the quality if the methodology used to create them. Assessing this methodology usually requires an above-average knowledge about science, which is unfortunately not so common amongst the general population. So, at the end, the average Joe has no choice but to outsource the scientific stuff to scientists and take a leap of faith. But which is the best way to know who to trust? The best way to discriminate “good” from “bad” science is being able to… Read more »
Jeff
Jeff
7 years 11 days ago
I do research in neuroscience at the government-funded NIH. I majored in physics in college. Someone could write several books on the topic, but much of biology, health, and nutrition are being approached as “soft sciences” — epidimiology, observational studies, generalizations, assumptions, etc. The REAL scientific method works perfectly for physics and chemistry. But biology is too complex at the moment. Scientists make assumptions and simplifications. And with enough degrees of freedom, the bad science can be just as convincing as the good science. Add to this the fact that the source of funding can influence the results (e.g. the… Read more »
Epistemocrat
7 years 11 days ago

At some point, you just have to self-experiement: ‘n=1’ and listen to your body. All the great insights Mark provides are venture capital for self-experimenting and conducting your own personal ‘clinical trial’: it’s the statistics of individuals, and it benefits from agency.

Ronald Pottol
Ronald Pottol
7 years 11 days ago

http://www.blog.sethroberts.net/

You should check out his blog, he is an experimental psychology prof who is very much into self experimentation, including diet. Interesting results, and also interesting thinking about how to get useful data on the cheap, somewhere between anecdote and a nice double blind study.

steve
7 years 11 days ago

Mark, have you heard of Dr James Chestnut?
http://www.thewellnesspractice.com/
He is based in the primal idea, and has a sheetload of evidence to back it up. He has something called ‘the plant analogy’ which explains how randomized controlled trials do not work in biological systems… check it out in his book the innate diet.

I think you will find a kindred spirit. And he wants to make it as big as you do – or bigger.

I am studying his wellness certification atm

Johnie Doe
Johnie Doe
7 years 11 days ago
I think there is a major problem with this self-experimentation and anecdotal evidence being compared to scientific study. The fact is if you go to any reasonable healthy eating pattern/diet plan website on the net (for example raw foods diet, or vegetarianism, etc) you will see thousands of people just like here at MDA saying how GOOD this diet is, how much it has CHANGED their life, how they noticeably feel better, how they have more energy, they have lost weight, etc. Without scientific evidence, all the people here at MDA or all the people at another paleo site are… Read more »
mcoz-09
mcoz-09
7 years 11 days ago
Johnie, You’re correct that anecodotal stories are not the same as a scientific study. Yep. They’re not the same as a carefully planned and executed scientific study. But I would contend that the stories here are further confirmation of the multitude of papers that have been published for a low carb, high fat diet. There are numerous papers in peer reviewed journals by physicians and scientists that include stories (with data of course) similar to those in books by physicians and here on MDA. Stories of people (in experimental groups or individuals here) who lost weight, improved their blood panel,… Read more »
Nick
Nick
7 years 10 days ago

Mark, what’s wrong with people wanting conclusive evidence? I know that biological systems are complex and one could say everyone is different, but on the whole, humans are very similar. You’re a scientist, why don’t you start the movement, initiate the research, and get that “hard evidence”. And to say anecdotal “evidence” is nearly as valid as “hard evidence” can be very misleading, because it’s natural for human beings to seek and find patterns. This can make it easy to believe anecdotal evidence is true and also makes it easy to get carried away with it.

dr. pierre debs
dr. pierre debs
7 years 10 days ago
When I hear “Reset your genes” I tend to think b.s. The assumption, bandied about here, is that due the modern methods of eating, our “primal genes” have somehow become dormant and only through primal eating will they be reactivated. This idea is plastered all over this website and patently absurd. At the same time, it is also promulgated, to substantiate the above claim, that our genome as it pertains to physiology, hasn´t evolved that much since the neanderthal. So that only a switch in substrate (food) will alleviate the ills for which many people seem to have that populate… Read more »
Mark Sisson
7 years 10 days ago
Dr. Pierre Debs, I respectfully ask what kind of doctor you are? If you are a medical doctor, then I find it alarming that you would suggest that it’s BS to “reset” our genes. (Note that I use the term “reprogram” – not reset). I’m not suggesting we can change our DNA – we can’t, and I have never suggested we could. Nevertheless, our genes are being turned on or off in response to signals we provide every second of every day. The increase or decrease in hormone production, receptor sites, muscle mass, bone mass and immune function are but… Read more »
dr. pierre debs
dr. pierre debs
7 years 8 days ago
Hi Mark, I am a molecular biologist and I am currently working on somatic cell reprogramming. Maybe I should not have said “BS” and I realize you are not arguing against science. I was more or less playing devils advocate. As far as resetting, awakening or reviving dormant genes……my point is that I do not believe, a priori, that the genes products which metabolize food and which MAY be very similar to those neanderthal genes are somehow dormant. I say “a priori” because I have not found a study which compares the two and thus I have nothing too support… Read more »
alnewman
alnewman
7 years 10 days ago
So, the world is complex and science doesn’t give immediate, satisfying answers. So what. No one promises that all investigations are stand alone processes that reveal the TRUTH all wrapped up in a neat little box, tied with a ribbon. Science over time converges to the truth, despite all the petty politics, biases, and dead ends that get in the way. If one disparages “correlation is not causation” then stay away from incredibly complex fields like endocrinology, where many parallel processes occur, which at best, are often weakly linked. Yes, Science is slow, inefficient and dissatisfying to a society that… Read more »
Tony Ingram
5 years 10 months ago

WORD!

dr. pierre debs
dr. pierre debs
7 years 10 days ago

here here Alnewman!!!

joe s
joe s
7 years 10 days ago
We all love to measure things. Total calories, % body fat, total carbs, BMI. I think a lot of these scientists are missing the point. I am by no means the quintessential PB’er but by cutting way down on grain and upping my consumption of meat and vegetables and performing daily workouts, I feel alot better, look alot better, more alert, more energy, and for some odd reason alot more flexible. I have no idea what I weigh, my lipid panel numbers, BMI or any of that nonsense. I feel “Healthy” and alot of my previous aches and pains are… Read more »
dr. pierre debs
dr. pierre debs
7 years 10 days ago
1. how do yo know you weight lose or your increased energy is not solely due to exercise? All of your changes can be a result of exercise and increased energy expenditure. 2. Until now, Grok and his health is absolute, pure conjecture. 3. If we are not able to measure healthy, then all science and medicine fails. They don´t and it is entirely possible to measure the health status of the human body and declare said body to be healthy or not-healthy. I assure you, many people fell fine and are deathly ill. If we relied soley on subjective… Read more »
Dr. Dave
7 years 10 days ago
Mark is right on about reprogramming our genes for healthy gene expression. The PB is the correct way of living a healthy life just the way God intended. The problem is that you have all of this “Science” that constantly steers people away from the simple truth about what the body needs. There are textbooks that are still being printed with information that is false as far as the “Science” of the human body goes. When you go to school to become a doctor, half of what you learn is correct at the time, and half of that half will… Read more »
Daniel Merk
7 years 10 days ago

http://www.askmen.com/sports/foodcourt_100/143_eating_well.html

I am giving up on spreading the word. No one is listening to me, and articles like this are used against me.

I feel like when I was in HighSchool; electric blue hair, riding my skateboard and getting beat up by foot ball players who now have kids that watch pro skateboarding and think its “extreme.”

Did Grok cry? Because I am.

DR
7 years 10 days ago
When it comes to training, scientific research is at least 5 years behind the times. Trainers/strength coaches that have a brain in their heads are constantly tweaking and making changes to training programs in order to maximize their clients’ performance. We take what science tells us, test it, throw out what doesn’t work and keep what does. We also do that with nutrition. It’s sad when ‘experts” hide behind studies instead of providing real world results. Bottom line…we are our own lab experiments. If you are fat, do a little online research, find a plan (primal) that you think might… Read more »
dr. pierre debs
dr. pierre debs
7 years 10 days ago

“Mark is right on about reprogramming our genes for healthy gene expression.”

This statement is wholly hogwash and challenge you to show any proof. Can you even explain healthy gene expression?

joe s
joe s
7 years 10 days ago
I think before we measure healthy, you need to define healthy. Is it BMI, Cholesterol, %Body fat,or other health factors , or is it really a combination of physical and phsycological factors that allow one to live a full and happy pain free life and do the thing he/she wants to do or has to do without reservation ,restriction or stress? I like to look at things from a quality of life perspective. I am 50 years old. I am on no medication nor do i take any except if in dire need. None in at least 5-6 years. My… Read more »
Beth Olmo
Beth Olmo
7 years 10 days ago

I really hope we don’t have any PB-ers showing up on other folks’ blogs and picking fights because they disagree. To those of you who find the PB to be “wholly hogwash,” fine. There’s the door.

Beth Olmo
Beth Olmo
7 years 10 days ago

Sorry if I’m out of line, Mark (it’s not my house), but jeez.

Mark Sisson
7 years 10 days ago

Beth, no problem. I do encourage discussion here (with a special emphasis on witty reparte). The good Dr has commented before, so I know he checks in once in a while. There must be something that attracts him to the site. I certainly don’t want this to be a “believers-only” club. How else we gonna change the world?

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dr. pierre debs
dr. pierre debs
7 years 9 days ago

Wo nelly- I do follow a more or less PB lifestyle, but I scrutinize everything and I am a researcher working on somatic cell reprogramming, amongst other topics. I have a rather intimate relationship with “Genetic Reprogramming”….Not picking fights

Aaron Blaisdell
7 years 9 days ago

The whole emerging field of epigenetics is predicated on the role of environment on gene expression. That is phenotype is not a static endpoint of genetic expression but a dynamically coactive (with environment) one. There’s an excellent article in the Observer (a publication of the Association for Psychological Science) on this topic and I believe it is freely available here: http://www.psychologicalscience.org/observer/getArticle.cfm?id=2515. It is a must read for anyone interested in nutrition, lifestyle, and health.

MT
MT
7 years 9 days ago

Calling someone’s beliefs “wholly hogwash” or “bs” is picking fights. It offers nothing of value.

Beth Olmo
Beth Olmo
7 years 9 days ago

I see your point, Mark.

David
David
7 years 9 days ago

Scientifically, my blood tests show a tremendous improvement in my health. the only change I have made that could account for this improvement is diet and exercise over time. Yes, this is anecdotal, but it is MY anecdote. when I read something that makes sense to me, I try it. If it works, I keep it – if it doesn’t, I lose it. I am my own lab rat and I am, by every medical number you can have tested a healthier person.

DR
7 years 9 days ago

Bravo David,

I have gotten into this debate before with people who are unwilling to consider any health/fitness concept that hasn’t been given a Mainstream Science Seal of Approval.

So sad.

Way to go fellow lab rat

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Anand Srivastava
Anand Srivastava
7 years 8 days ago
I think the bigger problem is economics, and that powerful interests want to maintain status quo. The same problem is in the Physics community. They have very firm indication that Relativity (as defined currently) is not working beyond our solar system. It does not work well when accelaration due to gravity drops below a limit. We are getting a lot of artifacts like Dark Matter and Dark Energy. But the problem is economic, rather than scientific. There is no theory to take the place of relativity. Even though we know that it is wrong no one will admit to it.… Read more »
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[…] at MDA wrote a post about Weighing the Evidence: Science and Evidence in Nutrition Studies. In it he lays out the “scientific method” which says […]

Darya
7 years 8 days ago
Interesting thoughts. I’m a scientist and care deeply about food and health, and I agree that many of your points are valid. At the same time, however, well done science can tell us a lot. Anecdotal evidence certainly has its value as well, but the problem with it is all it represents is an observation, not a real test. It is the first part of the scientific method only–telling us what, but not why. Personally I think we have to be skeptical of all data, anecdotal or peer-reviewed, because as you say, biology can be very non-linear. I let the… Read more »
jellysoda
jellysoda
7 years 6 days ago
i’m a chemist. i like to think of the scientific method this way: you’re stuck in a dark room and you’re trying to find out what the other objects are in the room by throwing little pebbles at everything. it’s long, it’s laborious, but really really exciting when one of your little pebbles hits a light switch and part of the room is illuminated. it’s fun and effective. also, i think being a scientist is part of human nature! science itself isn’t at fault for all of the issues related to poor scientific research. there are a lot of politics… Read more »
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noelJensen
noelJensen
6 years 11 months ago

Late to the party but found the conversation here interesting. I think we can look to history and see where both conventional wisdom and science have been extremely foolish. My motto is no matter who is selling, caveat emptor.

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[…] Part 2: Animal and Human Well-BeingThe Importance of Cooking in the Evolution of the Human BrainWeighing the Evidence: Science and Anecdote in Nutrition Studies Share and Enjoy: Share Delicious Digg Design Float Mixx Reddit StumbleUpon TechnoratiTags: climate, […]

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[…] usually reserve judgment as I check the research over time. Though I relish listening to folks’ personal experiences, I always come back to the larger frames of quality medical study and evolutionary […]

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