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Old 04-18-2013, 08:12 AM   #1
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Gary Taubes' essay: Science of Obesity

Open access in the BMJ: The science of obesity: what do we really know about what makes us fat? An essay by Gary Taubes
BMJ 2013; 346 [I omitted the link as there may be some advertising but it should be easy to find.]

Interesting overview of competing hypotheses of why we become fat and a description of the Nutrition Science Initiative which promotes better research and trials. He discusses CICO (close to JUDDD Buds hearts) and the notion of hormonal dysregulation leading to fat accumulation.

Quote:
We believe that ultimately three conditions are necessary to make progress in the struggle against obesity and its related chronic diseases—type 2 diabetes, most notably. First is the acceptance of the existence of an alternative hypothesis of obesity, or even multiple alternative hypotheses, with the understanding that these, too, adhere to the laws of physics and must be tested rigorously.

Second is a refusal to accept substandard science as sufficient to establish reliable knowledge, let alone for public health guidelines. When the results of studies are published, the authors must be brutally honest about the possible shortcomings and all reasonable alternative explanations for what they observed. “If science is to progress,” as the Nobel prize winning physicist Richard Feynman said half a century ago, “what we need is the ability to experiment, honesty in reporting results—the results must be reported without somebody saying what they would like the results to have been—and finally—an important thing—the intelligence to interpret the results. An important point about this intelligence is that it should not be sure ahead of time what must be.”20

Finally, if the best we’ve done so far isn’t good enough—if uncontrolled experiments and observational studies are unreliable, which should be undeniable—then we have to find the willingness and the resources to do better.

Last edited by SlowSure; 04-18-2013 at 08:12 AM.. Reason: remove direct link
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Old 04-18-2013, 08:24 AM   #2
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Thanks for that SlowSure. I just printed the article so I can read it later and keep it handy.
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Old 04-18-2013, 03:13 PM   #3
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Second is a refusal to accept substandard science as sufficient to establish reliable knowledge, let alone for public health guidelines. When the results of studies are published, the authors must be brutally honest about the possible shortcomings and all reasonable alternative explanations for what they observed. “If science is to progress,” as the Nobel prize winning physicist Richard Feynman said half a century ago, “what we need is the ability to experiment, honesty in reporting results—the results must be reported without somebody saying what they would like the results to have been—and finally—an important thing—the intelligence to interpret the results. An important point about this intelligence is that it should not be sure ahead of time what must be.”



OMG I could get on a soapbox higher than the Empire State Building about this one. Having worked in research in my previous life, I can't stress enough how important this is, and how nearly impossible it is. There are several problems - negative results are often looked upon unfavorably and hardly ever published. And why not? If you tried 10 things that didn't work, why not share that instead of having other groups waste time with those same 10 things? Because no one wants to admit their idea was a "loser".
Positive results get published which gets you tenure, promotions, grants, etc. And the thing is that, when 1 successful experiment is published, they don't tell you about the 19 times before this they tried the exact same thing and it failed.
Reading scientific articles is an art, knowing statistics and population (if applicable) theories is imperitive because numbers can lie. Study designs can be misleading and even things like the scale used to graph the results can make small differences appear large, or vice versa.
And don't even get me started on the peer review process...what a crock! Although I recognize the validity of what the system is trying for...I actually know someone personally who's graduation was delayed 12 months because he could not get his article published. Why? Because one of the reviewers, an "expert" in the field, kept delaying and bouncing back my friend's paper. Turns out his group was working on the exact same thing and this reviewer delayed the publication of my friend's article long enough so that his article could come out first. And, yes, reviewers sign a confidentiality and ethical clause thingy but when your reviewers are so-called experts in the field, and the field is small...well it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what's going on.
Kinda off topic, but just beware & do your own reading & thinking...
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Old 04-18-2013, 05:30 PM   #4
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I read Candace Pert's book "Molecules of emotion", about her discovery of neurotransmitters. What struck me most was not her amazing findings, but the appalling machinations of the peer-review system and the academic funding setup.
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Old 04-19-2013, 04:28 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Yennie View Post
OMG I could get on a soapbox higher than the Empire State Building about this one. Having worked in research in my previous life, I can't stress enough how important this is, and how nearly impossible it is. There are several problems - negative results are often looked upon unfavorably and hardly ever published. And why not? If you tried 10 things that didn't work, why not share that instead of having other groups waste time with those same 10 things? Because no one wants to admit their idea was a "loser".
...
And don't even get me started on the peer review process......
I feel we are in solid agreement on the difficulties of trial design and the horrors of publication bias, group rivalry, grant chasing and the difficulty of publishing negative results (or, the downright concealing of them). Plus the rampant misrepresentation of science findings in various media (sometimes with the connivance of researchers/university press depts. who just need the publicity so don't care that their findings are being horribly over-extrapolated).

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...What struck me most was not her amazing findings, but the appalling machinations of the peer-review system and the academic funding setup.
Yes. It's in the US rather than the UK (I know more about the latter) but a huge, well-funded, neuroscience research initiative has just been announced. The parameters are surprising (given the work that actually needs to be done) and it reads as if its priorities have been set by people who don't seem to understand the field. Lots of neuroscientists know this and are uneasy about it. The heads of their various bodies are effectively telling them to be quiet and not voice their concerns in public because funding is funding. Even if everyone is doing the wrong thing - and this funding effectively means that little else might be researched because there's now no money for anything that doesn't fall within the framework of this initiative. Paradoxically, this funding has the potential to set the field back for 10 years or more. It's beyond absurd.

Last edited by SlowSure; 04-19-2013 at 04:29 AM.. Reason: typo
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Old 04-20-2013, 10:59 AM   #6
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It would be great if someone would publish articles showing all of the proven or even hypothetical negative counterparts to the positive results that are published. I know this is done, but it isn't always user friendly. Maybe it should be required for publicly funded research? That way the public would have all the information to make intelligent decisions about how they decide to take care of themselves. That is why we pay researchers, isn't it? To better our health? Not to engage in some sort of competition, race to the finish line and notoriety. The positive things that are published are very important, but only if the negative can be referenced along side are they wholly valuable.
I really know squat about how research is conducted or published or anything really, so please forgive me if my above statement sounds too ignorant.
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Old 04-20-2013, 12:30 PM   #7
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We get tons of nursing books on diabetes, and the information inside is so wrong it's astounding. Most of it is wrapped up in scholarly gobbledygook, but universities, etc. are buying them and making someone a nice profit.
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Old 04-21-2013, 12:48 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hot-in-texas View Post
It would be great if someone would publish articles showing all of the proven or even hypothetical negative counterparts to the positive results that are published. I know this is done, but it isn't always user friendly. Maybe it should be required for publicly funded research? That way the public would have all the information to make intelligent decisions about how they decide to take care of themselves. That is why we pay researchers, isn't it? To better our health?
Agreed - and even beyond publicly-funded research, the Alltrials project that was recently the subject of an Op-Ed by British doctor and research Ben Goldacre in the New York Times argues that drug companies have an ethical obligation to release data on all the trials that are conducted so that people can be absolutely confident that there are as few side-effect or limited efficacy surprises as practical. And that the consumer doesn't constantly have to pay through the nose for tweaked patent drugs where they're not substantially better than older class drugs or generics.

The Cochrane Collaboration does excellent work on pulling together the data from all trials it can obtain on a particular topic, sifting through them to make sure the trials pass what is effectively a quality test, and then running all the numbers of those trials effectively together, to see what the overall result is. I like the way that the collaboration insists that there is (effectively) a lay-person's summary that presents the findings of all this incredibly fine-detailed statistical analysis in reasonably-understandable terms. (I don't think that the lay-person summary is always as basic as it should be.)

An on-going problem with nutrition and obesity research is that so many of the trials;
  • have been very badly designed;
  • persist in using animal models without explaining caveats well;
  • ask the wrong questions;
  • are too short in duration;
  • are too often founded on egregiously mistaken premises that reflect ideology not scientific enquiry.
Peter Attia MD is a collaborator with Taubes and his Eating Academy site/blog is fairly interesting (I say fairly because it is very heavy on the biochemistry and it is, understandably, didactic on the issue of low carb and the insulin hypothesis).
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