Champagne on the Bastion

ConscienHealth’s Greatest Hits of 2018

As 2018 winds down, we have a chance to gratefully reflect on the fact that more than 100,000 users took the time to read some of the content we provided this year. No, this is surely not the New York Times. We admit that we have a very narrow focus. But given this narrow focus, we’re amazed and grateful that so many of you have an interest in what we’re writing.

So here are the top ten of 363 articles we published so far this year. These are the posts that you read and shared the most.

1. Bogus Weight Loss Clichés

Just about every time we post about something Kevin Hall presents or publishes, we see intense interest from our readers. So naturally, when Hall presented to the Obesity Action Coalition’s YWM2018, readers jumped on it. He gave people clear and sound insights into the science of obesity. In the process, he debunked a number of flawed assumptions – like the “3,500 calorie rule.”

He offered a sharp focus on the idea that weight loss might be gratifying, but dealing with obesity is all about sustainable ways to maintain a lower, healthier weight.

2. Added Sugar in Breast Milk

This one was surprising, because it was an April Fool’s prank. We wrote that the FDA had classified the sugar in breast milk – 17 grams per serving – as added sugars. Quite a number of you responded with indignation, but no doubt that the agency might have done this. It tells us something about the level of critical thinking in public discourse about dietary sugars.

It’s worth noting here that both our number one and two articles this year attracted roughly twice as many readers as any other on this list. Compared to a typical post, ten times as many people read these two articles.

3. Intermittent Fasting Puffery

This is the first of two posts from FNCE that stirred some intense interest. It was a report on a forum exploring the science and hype attached to intermittent fasting. Coincidentally in news media at the time, Jason Fung was hyping a publication of case reports about three patients with diabetes whom he treated with intermittent fasting. He claimed that his paper on those patients “changes everything” about diabetes treatment.

Hype is an exquisite way to hurt the credibility of science.

4. Fencing at FNCE About HAES

Also from FNCE, a report on a debate about HAES and weight management aroused strong passions. Despite all the passion, presenters found a bit of common ground in the concept of shared decision making. But HAES practitioners have some fundamental issues with the idea that obesity is an unhealthy condition.

5. Magical Thinking About Fruits and Veggies

Other than eating less and moving more, the top advice you’ll find for combating obesity is to eat more fruits and veggies, we wrote. These foods are good for you. But will promoting their consumption have a measurable effect on obesity prevalence? Actual data stubbornly refuses to tell us it will.

6. Overselling Small Plates

This one was a guest post from Eric Robinson and The Conversation. Robinson wrote about his own research showing that small plates are not quite so magical for reducing food consumption. Another cherished idea crashes into uncooperative data.

7. Trendspotting for 2018

At the beginning of the year, we offered our thoughts on what would be hot – or not – in the realm of obesity, nutrition, and health. You liked it. Even better, some of it seemed to have held up as the year unfolded.

8. Stigma Attached to Bariatric Surgery

When we wrote about weight loss surgery and the false stigma of an easy way out, we struck a nerve. This ignorant stigma is infuriating because bariatric surgery is anything but an easy way out. On top of that, what the heck is wrong with an easy way out if we had such a thing? Are people with obesity supposed to get special credit for suffering? Hogwash!

9. Bad Dietary Advice Causing Obesity

Gary Taubes came up with a really appealing story in “The Big Fat Lie.” He made us rethink low-fat dietary dogma. And he also convinced people that this unfounded dietary advice caused a spike in obesity. But it’s not quite that simple, as we wrote in September.

10. PR Overtaking Science

The year just past was a big one for retractions. Perhaps the most dramatic set of retractions came to work by Brian Wansink. It seems to us that this was a case when PR overtook the pursuit of science. It was a bad outcome for everyone it touched.



It’s been a messy year, with lots of ups and downs. But that means we’ve had much to write. Thank you for reading some of it.

Champagne on the Bastion, photograph © Matthias Book / flickr

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December 27, 2018

2 Responses to “ConscienHealth’s Greatest Hits of 2018”

  1. December 28, 2018 at 9:11 am, Angie Golden said:

    Thank you for being a common sense and “go to” source for obesity.

  2. December 28, 2018 at 10:53 am, Allen Browne said:

    Ted,

    Thank you for another great year of thought provoking, educating posts.

    Happy New Year!!!

    Keep up the good work!

    Allen