Mixing Sensation with Science in Dietary Guidelines
As we’re coming down the home stretch toward finalizing 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the British Medical Journal is again mixing sensation with science by publishing a journalist’s analysis of the recommended guidelines. Unfortunately, it’s looking like BMJ followed neither scientific standards for peer review nor journalistic standards for error checking.
The journalist who authored the BMJ “feature,” Nina Teicholz, is selling a book that takes issue with dietary recommendations regarding dietary fats and promotes butter, cheese, and meat consumption. Ironically, her BMJ article makes a point to criticize potential conflicts of interest in the report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC). She seems unaware of her own. The BMJ made no mention of her book in her disclosures until it was challenged on the subject.
Tabloid medical reporting is increasingly becoming the domain of BMJ. Earlier this year, BMJ published four articles that relied in large part on ad hominem reasoning and innuendo to suggest that leading nutrition experts have been corrupted by the sugar industry. This continues what one health communications expert has described as “a long series of mistakes by both the BMJ and The Lancet that generated headlines at first and embarrassment later.”
In a recent commentary published by the Journal of the American Medical Association, Anne Cappola and Garret FitzGerald suggest that “the prospect of fame may be even more seductive than fortune.” They make the point that this is an important source of bias.
Sensationalism such as Teicholz and the BMJ are churning out might bring them notoriety, but they are bringing only bias and confusion to important scientific questions about nutrition.
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September 29, 2015