Chase the Conspiracy, Lose the Facts

It seems that conspiracy theories are so appealing that sometimes they lead people to lose the facts. So it was recently in the British Journal of Sports Medicine when Aseem Malhotra and colleagues published an editorial blaming the food industry for misinformation about the role of exercise in obesity, saying:

Many still wrongly believe that obesity is entirely due to lack of exercise. This false perception is rooted in the Food Industry’s Public Relations machinery, which uses tactics chillingly similar to those of big tobacco.

Temporarily RemovedBut Malhotra bumped into a tiny problem. It seems he didn’t get the facts right while trying to accuse Big Food of misleading the public. His commentary contained gross inaccuracies, such as misreporting a 1.1% increase in diabetes prevalence as an “11-fold increase in diabetes.”

The journal has now removed the editorial from online publication.

It’s funny how strong the emotional response is to perceived food industry conspiracies. When ConscienHealth wrote critically about this editorial, we quickly heard from a professor at the University of Washington who asked “Is ConcienHealth just another filter for the dissemination of food industry-friendly narratives on obesity causation?”

Emotion interferes with critical thinking. All the energy that goes into ad hominem arguments and conspiracy theories should be redirected into serious, objective problem solving and scientific inquiry.

The real enemy is obesity and obesity doesn’t care how mad you are at the food industry.

Click here to read more about the problems with the Malhotra editorial in Metabunk. Click here to read more from ConscienHealth.

Conspiracy, photograph © Jan Willem van Wessel / flickr

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2 Responses to “Chase the Conspiracy, Lose the Facts”

  1. May 08, 2015 at 6:40 pm, Ed said:

    The author of the Metabunk admits in the comments section that “there’s still quite a significant increase in diabetes prevalence correlating with sugar availability, just nowhere near what the language [of the editorial] suggests.” The editorial’s essential point is that people aren’t obese because of a lack of physical activity. Rather, it is because of what they eat. Is Big Food alone to blame for shaping the American diet and food availability over the last 40 years? Not alone, but it surely deserves some degree of censure. That said, I’m not big on conspiracy theories, either, and it’s easy to point a finger at giant, faceless industries. By all means, let us have some “objective problem solving and scientific inquiry.” It would be a nice change.

    • May 09, 2015 at 4:39 am, Ted said:

      I’m with you on that, Ed. Just imagine…