The 6 Tactics Nutritional Pseudo-Scientists Use to Mislead You
You’ve been brainwashed by nutrition research.
We’re in the midst of a fight between money-grabbing companies and the truth. And the money-grabbing companies are winning.
Corrupt, manipulative tactics have transformed research from a truth finding field into a tool for big pharma.
Over the last year, I’ve seen scientific research published that shouldn’t get a passing grade in high school. But even worse, the news outlets that people rely on have incompetently misinterpreted the results.
Research publications and news outlets have resorted to clickbait in a last ditch effort to save themselves.
The modern dietary dogma is being dismantled and they need a life line.
It’s time they drown.
In this article I’ll show you the 6 tactics research studies and articles use to mislead you and what to look for.
Table of Contents
Bad Science is Everywhere
Pseudoscience is one of the most dangerous forces on earth. It is the main reason why 88% of the US is metabolically unhealthy and over 60% has pre-diabetes or diabetes. Ancel Keys used the tactics I’ll describe below to persuade people into avoiding the most nutritious food on earth — red meat — and instead eat toxic seed oils and refined carbohydrates.
All of this was possible because of a standard playbook of tactics. Once you’re aware of them you’ll never be misled again.
You’d think we would have learned our lesson by now. But instead, the same vested interests are doubling down and still using the same techniques to mislead you.
Just in the last couple of months, there have been several articles from news media, purporting to show how harmful animal products are for you.
But when you actually look into the studies, it’s nothing more than pseudoscientific nonsense.
The two most prominent journals of medicine are the Lancet and New England Journal of Medicine. Even they will freely admit that a lot of what is published is incorrect.
In 2015, Richard Horton, editor in chief of Lancet, stated the following:
“The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue” [*]
How can this be the case?
Two main reasons:
#1 Big Institutions Are Dying
Once upon a time, we needed big news publications for “truth”. If you wanted to learn about the world, they were the mediators. There was no way to figure out what was happening in the 1950s without listening to Walter Kronkite, for instance.
But the internet obliterated this structure. “Truth” has been commoditized. It’s no longer the monopoly of big websites with fancy 3 letter acronyms. Truth and information is everywhere and now these publications’ business models are dying.
Individuals are taking their health into their own hands. The proliferation of social media has completely upended the dissemination of information.
Twitter is a network of fact checkers and self taught scientists who’ve been able to generate more honest results than our “prestigious experts”.
Media outlets and institutions have become dependent on Facebook and Twitter for traffic and thus have resorted to clickbait headlines to pander to the news feed algorithm. This means that even when it comes to science, they’re not interested in promoting the truth. They’re interested in something that makes a bang.
Over time, people have been trained to rely on these news outlets as societal lie detectors. Most people believe the news is inherently trustworthy. At the very worst, they recognize there may be some bias.
But as I’ll show, saying these publications are biased is like saying Ancel Keys made a slight gaff. It would be the understatement of the year.
It turns out that these trusted oracles are flagrantly incorrect when it comes to nutritional science and more interested in parroting headline-worthy science than playing the indispensable fact checker role that we need them for.
Big pharma. Big news publications. Big CPG…they’re all on their last leg. Sometimes when something is toppling over instead of repairing it, you should kick it. Instead of resurrecting them it’s time they die.
#2 Trillions of Dollars Are At Stake
At this point there are so many vested interests in the current dietary dogma. There are trillions of dollars at stake from the USDA’s nefarious recommendations… all accrued to only a handful of institutions.
There are only EIGHT companies worth $1 TRILLION from selling us junk
These companies are a tax on society. They rake in the profits because they’re up-charging you for toxic junk.
They destroy your health, leading to a lifetime reliance on big pharma. Guess who gets footed with the bill?
All of this is a result of bad science, dishonest marketing and addicting products.
Science has been sold to the highest bidder. Millions of deaths from preventable chronic disease is the result.
To reverse course, we need to debunk the pseudoscience that’s led us astray.
Thankfully however, most of the bad research has typical tells. If you know what to look out for, you can fairly easily identify which studies to trust and which to safely ignore.
The Tactics Used to Mislead You
Science was supposed to minimize reliance on individual opinion. It was supposed to give us objectivity, independent of bias.
Instead of trusting a doctor who claims blood-letting is good for you, for instance, you could point to a study that objectively shows that it is not.
But instead, science has been corrupted and used as a tool to further people’s agendas.
And you too, the reader, are not wholly innocent. Once most people see a stat, all of their critical faculties go dark. There’s a religious like devotion to the cult of statistics that goes unquestioned. But as they say, “99% of statistics are wrong”.
Just because a scientist produces a number does not mean it is correct. This seems obvious, but most people fail to question what they read.
Their playbook is simple. Once you discover it, you’ll never be misled again.
Here are some standard ways statisticians and “scientists mislead you”
#1: Observational and Not Controlled (Confounders)
When it comes to studies, there’s a hierarchy of the trustworthiness of evidence. It starts with personal opinion, and ends with systematic reviews and meta analyses of randomized controlled trials.
Most studies in nutrition are cohort epidemiological studies (also colloquially referred to as observational studies).
Epidemiology is the branch of health that look for associations of disease in groups of people and try to infer their cause.
They key words “associations” and “try”. Whereas a randomized and controlled study is used to determine causality, observational studies can only assume a correlation.
This key, unrecognized distinction is one of the biggest reasons why so many people are in poor health. Observational studies are like astrology to astronomy — they aren’t real science.
Yet they’ve been used to support all nutrition recommendations. It’s like if doctors started prescribing meds based on the moon cycle…
Remember the scientific method? The first step is making a hypothesis and the second step is testing it.
For instance, if I had a hypothesis that steak caused cancer, the only way to determine if the relationship is causal is to pull together a very broad population, randomize them into two groups, and hold all variables constant other than steak intake.
However, epidemiological studies do this in reverse. They first gather data and later come to a conclusion. But science is only science if you’re making falsifiable hypotheses that you can test.
This is why epidemiological studies are only useful to uncover correlations that you later rigorously stress test.
Ultimately in a bid for certainty, doctors, news sources and government agencies rely on these studies to make their recommendations. But they’ve ignored the first rule of science: Correlation is not causation.
Without randomizing and controlling, there are likely confounding factors that alter the results. Just because A and B are related doesn’t mean A caused B. B could have caused A. For instance, rich people tend to live in big houses. That doesn’t mean that big houses make you rich.
Pretty much every nutrition study quoted in the media is an observational study. Keep this in mind as you read scientific news.
#2: Self Reported Food Frequency Questionnaires with Long Follow Ups
To make matters worse, many of the observational studies that nutritional science relies on are based on self reported food frequency questionnaires. When subjects are enrolled in a study they complete a questionnaire with everything they eat and its quantity.
Most people couldn’t even tell you what they ate a few days prior. But these studies presume you’ll be able to accurately report the exact quantity and contents of your diet over the past months to a year. Of course there are errors.
Additionally, many studies frequently rely on just one single food frequency questionnaire as a baseline, and follow up for health outcomes 5-15 years later.
For instance, if I ate steak every day for the last month, reported that in the questionnaire, and then decided to switch to a cigarettes only diet, my death would be blamed on the steak. People change, and these studies don’t account for that.
So not only are studies forgoing the scientific method and incorrectly equating correlation with causation, they also utilize inaccurate inputs.
Garbage in, garbage out.
#3: Relative Not Absolute Risk
When reporting the consequences of the risk factor (diet, food, etc.), studies generally choose between reporting relative or absolute risk. Relative risk is the risk delta between two cohorts within a study. Absolute risk is the risk compared to a baseline.
Let me explain.
Say you had two groups: one that ate bacon and one that didn’t. In the bacon group, 7/1000 or 0.7% of people got cancer. In the non bacon group 5/1000, or 0.5% of people got cancer.
The relative risk reported would be a jaw dropping increase of 40% in cancer rates. When in reality, bacon increased absolute rates of cancer by 0.2% or 2 people out of a 1000.
Reporting the latter in this case is more apt in my opinion. But of course the clickbait driven media will report the former.
Unfortunately today most people get their scientific research through the lens of a media empire. And that media apparatus is dependent on clicks, so will do everything in their power to suck you in.
#4: Biased Population
The ideal way to conduct nutritional science would be to take the entire world, randomize them into two groups, intervene in one and examine the results. Clearly that’s impractical.
Instead, researchers choose a smaller sample of people that they aim to use as a proxy for the whole. The presupposition is that if the same consequences of an intervention happen to a large and diverse enough sample, they can apply those results to you.
But, as the common trope goes, everybody is different. When it comes to health, that is especially the case. Often times, the population that a study uses is highly biased.
This means that not only is the population very different you, the person seeking advice, but it is also misrepresentative of the population at large.
In an observational study, one risk factor can correlate highly with others.
Here’s an example: most people today realize smoking cigarettes is poison. If you were to post a flyer for a study on cigarette smokers, who would you expect to show up? Health conscious keto dieters? Or people that likely exhibit all sorts of other unhealthy behavior.
In this case, smoking cigarettes would presumably correlate very highly with weight, diabetes, hypertension, vegetable oil intake, etc — all other factors that will skew any health related outcomes.
If the group of smokers dies from cancer, is it the cigarettes or the vegetable oils? You can’t tell without randomizing and controlling for all factors.
The opposite often occurs in studies too. That is, only including a healthy group of people. This is called the healthy user bias and has been a major factor supporting vegetarian diet claims.
If you tell a population that meat is bad for you for 50 years, vegetarians likely care about their health more than non vegetarians (on average). They’re more likely to be non smokers, active, meditators and yoga practitioners.
Amongst that group of people, it may look like the absence of meat in their diet is responsible for their health, when in reality it’s because everything they do is healthy.
This is why randomized controlled trials are imperative. It’s only after you intervene and control for the effects that you can conclude the intervention itself caused the changes in health.
#5 Financial Conflicts of Interest Leads to Publication Bias
Imagine if you flipped a coin 10 times. On average you should flip 5 heads and 5 tails. But inevitably you will get 10 straight heads or tails. Imagine you only published those results and claimed you had a technique that guaranteed those results. This occurs with scientific publications.
Not all studies need to be published. Companies and researchers can determine which ones are sent to the research publications.
For instance, in the case of antidepressants, 36/37 studies that showed the drugs were beneficial were published. And only 3/36 of the negative ones were published [*].
And regardless of how many negative studies there are, drug trials only need 2 positive ones to get FDA approved.
This means that a meta-analysis that aggregated the studies would suggest the drugs are much more beneficial than in reality. Garbage in, garbage out.
#6 Conflicts Bias the Results
Research needs to be funded. And funding needs to generate a profit. The only institutions that make money from studies are the companies that they benefit. And as a result, they’re one of the biggest sources of capital for all studies that are conducted today.
As you’d imagine, this distorts the results.
Companies often prod researchers to keep running experiments until they get the results they want, discarding the experiments that “failed to produce significant findings.”
Not only are negative studies buried, but researchers that are being paid by a company are more likely to find results that adjudicate in their favor.
Essentially, any results are for sale to the highest bidder.
This study found that out of 546 drug trials, 63% were funded by industry. Out of the industry funded studies, 85% found positive results from drug use. Whereas only 50% of government funded studies did [*].
The drug industry has completely distorted all scientific research. The “scientific conclusion” is completely a product of how much money these companies pour into “research”.
Here’s the Playbook To Mislead You
For all you people out there who want to make a bang in research, here’s the playbook they follow:
Step 1: Find a large dataset
Step 2: Identify biased population
Step 3: Mine data until you find a correlation
Step 4: Report high relative risk
Step 5: Rake in $$ from from big companies
Results have been sold to the highest bidder.
Examples Of How You’ve Been Misled
There are countless examples of how you’ve been misled with the techniques described above. Just in the last few months, these studies have been picked up by major news outlets and bandied about like there’s scientific certainty.
It’s a shame that we cannot trust our biggest news publications and journals to dissect the science for us and properly inform people.
But luckily, we have a decentralized group of highly motivated doctors, individuals, health practitioners and fed up individuals who will for you. Below are some examples:
Study 1: Eggs Will Kill You
Are eggs actually bad for you? Journalists would make you believe so after a study came out recently.
The study was published everywhere. CNN, WSJ, NYTimes, you name it. In case you somehow missed it, it claimed that eating eggs causes heart disease. Just another new claim on the merry-go-round of disparaging foods that we’ve eaten forever.
Should you be worried? I consume 6+ egg yolks a day. CNN, if you’re following, will you please tell me how long I have left to live?
So…will eggs kill you? No. Eggs are one of the most nutritious foods on the planet. They have one of the most complete vitamin, mineral and fatty acid profiles of any food out there. And that’s a big reason why studies like this continue to come out disparaging them and red meat. Highly nutritious animal foods threaten the multi trillion dollar junk food industry.
Let’s Tear This Apart
Unsurprisingly, the study is littered with methodological flaws.
Stop 1 on the tour: Here you’ll find a common tactic used by researchers — ONE SINGLE food frequency questionnaire from 17 years ago. The researchers naively assumed that all adverse outcomes were from this one answer…17 years later!
Do the researchers really not think anything in their life changed in the 17 years?
Like most nutritional nonsense that has been foisted upon us, the study backing this guidance was observational (it wasn’t a controlled study). This means the results cannot be taken as causal because of all the confounding factors.
And unsurprisingly, the egg eaters in the study were much more likely to have other unhealthy habits.
They even point this out: “Egg consumption was commonly correlated with unhealthy behaviors such as low physical activity”.
So you can’t discern whether it’s the eggs causing heart disease, or if people who eat eggs happen to have a lot of other unhealthy behaviors which cause the disease. In this case, I’d bet it was the latter based on the population described below.
Population Not Representative
Every single person in the study had a BMI over 25, which is considered obese. 10% had diabetes. Over 10% of people in every study but one were on hypertension medication. Over 2% in every study were using hormone therapy. These are not healthy, average people.
The only possible conclusion you can draw from this study is that egg eating tends to associate with other unhealthy behaviors. Not that eggs cause those health outcomes.
The Study Didn’t Investigate Subtype of Death
How did the people die? The mechanism matters for a study to be predictive. What if everybody died in a car crash? Would it still be predictive?
In this study, the researchers didn’t delineate between different types of deaths. The increased death rate could have been from just about anything. Whereas if it was really the eggs causing the increase in total mortality, you’d expect them to all be from similar causes.
The Study Didn’t Investigate the Causal Mechanism
This is another example of how irresponsible these conclusions are.
Physiologically, there is absolutely no mechanism for healthy cholesterol to kill you. If you dissect the biochemical literature and dig into human physiologically, the only conclusion you can come to is that there’s nothing in eggs that is inherently harmful.
Researchers gloss over this entirely. If they really think eggs kill you, how do they do it? Crickets
Relative Risk Reported and Even So It’s Very Low
Based on the headlines from media and the interest that this galvanized, you’d think the study would have generated an exorbitant risk increase.
But even after taking into account all the methodological flaws this was littered with, the all cause mortality increase in relative risk was ONLY 3%.
In epidemiology studies, a risk ratio of less than double is likely to be confounded by other factors.
For example, the risk ratios from smoking and lung cancer are over 800%.
Yet this was bandied about by “top” publications like eating eggs are a missile that goes directly to your heart that detonates it. Didn’t we learn our lesson?
This is so disheartening. People rely on these news publications to parse the nonsense and generate signal from the noise.
But with their dying business models, it looks like they’ve all devolved into click-bait. Take everything with a grain of salt. And throw some of that salt on your eggs.
Study 2: Bacon Increases Cancer Risk
Another study that follows the typical playbook is a recent one on bacon.
Like the others, what they do is gather a large group of people, ask them about what they eat, and find a correlation between one of the data points and cancer. Voila, headline.
The researchers took 68,000 people and determined that a rasher of bacon raised cancer rates by 20%. The large sample size and big headline increase makes the numbers even more frightening.
Publications took the bait and plastered the news everywhere.
But it’s riddled with methodological flaws. Let’s dig in.
Questionnaire Without Sufficient Detail
Like other flawed studies, this used an online questionnaire. Researchers asked subjects to quantify how much of the above foods they ate.
The first problem with it is mentioned above: people often have a tough time remembering what they ate exactly.
But the even bigger one is that the food frequency questionnaire doesn’t delineate between how the food is prepared or what it is eaten with. For instance, the question even advises the participant to think about “curry, stir fry, sandwiches, pie fillings, etc”. So if I ate a beef pie with chloroform in it, I would check the beef box but not account for all of the other junk.
This questionnaire also does not specify the quality of the food. Bacon from a gas station with 10+ additives, is very different than locally raised bacon with 0 additives.
“Bacon is bad for you.” Everybody knows it right? It’s sort of like the cigarettes of the animal kingdom. So to be expected, people that ignore this dogma tend to care less about their health.
It shows in the population that was included in this study. From the study:
“Compared with those in the lowest category, participants in the highest category of reported total red-meat intake were slightly older, more likely to be smokers, had a higher BMI and body-fat percentage, had a higher alcohol intake and had lower intakes of fruit, vegetables and fibre”
Below is a chart comparing the different types of individuals in each group.
Relative vs Absolute Risk
The third step in the playbook of these studies is to always rely on relative risk instead of absolute. With enough participants and data points, you’ll almost always be able to find something significant.
The study found that three rashers of bacon rather than 1 increased cancer risk by 20%.
Let’s dissect this.
There were 68,359 people who ate the lowest amount of bacon, and of these 274 got cancer. There were 192,600 people who ate the highest amount of meat, and of these 1,209 got cancer.
Respectively, this makes the rates of cancer = 0.4% (274/68,359) and 0.6% (1209/192,600)
Based on these figures, the relative risk is 50% — and after adjusting for all confounders it is 20%.
However, the absolute risk increase is only 0.2% — 0.6% minus 0.4%.
Therefore, similar to the eggs study, the only conclusion you can make from this is that bacon eaters tend to have a 0.2% higher mortality rate. Whether it’s because of the bacon or because of their lifestyle, you cannot causally determine from this study. What a dull conclusion — hence why the news outlets didn’t report that.
Once again, nothing to see here.
Study 3: Skipping Breakfast Tied to Higher Risk of Heart Related Death
Is it time to add lucky charms and french toast back to your diet?
You’ve probably heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. However, like most other nutritional recommendations, it’s another piece of propaganda to support big industry.
How did this truism become adopted? Most people don’t know that it started as a 1944 marketing campaign from General Foods to sell more cereal.
There’s absolutely no scientific backing for the necessity of breakfast. And frankly, the fact that this garbage was even published shows the naivete of most people. Heart disease rates skyrocketed in the 1900s as more breakfast was being eaten.
From an evolutionary point of view, if our ancestors would have died of heart disease without a morning french toast, we wouldn’t be here today.
In fact, a number of legitimate, controlled studies show the opposite: that intermittent fasting is the best way to improve your health.
Breakfast is just like Valentine’s Day — a marketing scheme created to enrich cereal companies. And it’s worked tremendously well
Given all of the vested interests, I wasn’t surprised to see this study to fight back against the rise of intermittent fasting. Once again, a business with its back against the wall that needs to support $ trillions is bound to panic and resort to less scrupulous tactics.
According to this study, skipping breakfast increases mortality from cardiovascular disease.
The study used NHANES data collected from 1988 to 1994. NHANES is a program that surveys the nutritional and health status of adults in the United States. It combines physical examinations and interviews. It’s essentially a gold mine of people looking for spurious correlations.
The total number of subjects that participated during this time period was 39,695. Out of those, the researchers ultimately included 6,550 participants who were between the ages of 40 to 75 and free of a history of heart disease.
Participants were surveyed on their breakfast habits and responses were classified into four groups: “never,” “rarely,” “some days,” and “every day.”
Out of the 6,550 participants, 5% of them (336 total) never consumed breakfast and 59% consumed breakfast every day.
After adjusting for confounding factors, the researchers found that those who didn’t consume breakfast had a 19% higher relative risk of all cause mortality and an 87% higher risk of cardiovascular disease (pictured below).
87% is a fairly high increase in mortality from an observational study (but still not 2x which you’d like to see). How did researchers get to this conclusion despite the preponderance of evidence showing the health of fasting?
The study relied on one sample of breakfast habits and correlated that with death rates. But in the time between the study and death, the subjects habits could have shifted dramatically. This study, like many others, does not account for this.
No Mechanism To Relate
There’s absolutely no plausible mechanism that would relate skipping breakfast to heart disease. Yet the researchers overlook this point to support their clickbait.
In fact, skipping breakfast and intermittent fasting has been associated with dramatically improved health. Intermittent fasting improves everything from insulin sensitivity to inflammation to cognitive function. All factors that would improve mortality [*].
This is one of the major problems with these hit pieces. Researchers run with correlations, conclude they’re casual and make recommendations without exploring the biochemical mechanisms or lack thereof. It’s like concluding popsicles cause sunburns because of a correlation, despite there being no tenable mechanism linking the two.
Like the other studies, the sample is heavily biased. People who didn’t consume breakfast were more likely to be former smokers, drinkers, physically inactive, unmarried, lower income and poorer dietary quality.
If every doctor says breakfast is the most important meal of the day and you choose not to eat it, you’re likely to be rebelling against most other health advice too.
As a result, people who didn’t consume breakfast were more likely to be obese and had higher cholesterol levels. All factors that may precipitate heart disease.
A better conclusion for this study would be that people who skip breakfast, generally eat a crappy diet and get heart disease because of their unhealthy lifestyle.
The most important thing you can do for your health is identify the sinister, manipulative tactics researchers use to mislead you.
Their playbook is highly effective. But once you learn it, you’ll never be misled again. Like a football team that has no creativity, they run the same play over and over again.
It’s time we don’t put up with this misconduct.
I’ve spent years delving into the scientific literature to find the truth. And since I discovered it, my health has never been the same.
The answer is with the carnivore diet.
If you want to continue this journey and start improving your health, check out the getting started with the carnivore diet guide I prepared for you by clicking the button below.