Lately, I’ve been reading a lot more articles by detractors of different realms, such as paleo/primal and why everyone is wrong and a lot on politics and movements. On the surface, neither seem to be terribly interrelated but once you involve “science”, many problems people see with either one get equated to basically the same things:
* I’m right, you’re wrong
* I’m right, you’re wrong because you’re stupid and/or I refuse to listen to another opinion
* Because you didn’t scrutinize every last detail to the Nth degree, you didn’t do enough research and are therefore, utterly wrong
* You’re different and I don’t like different/change/etc
Every one of those applies to politics and political science in almost every arena, argument, debate, and TV show, almost all simultaneously, every time as well. But I’m not here to talk about politics, it just makes me angry(ier). I actually want to discuss science, food science, how paleo is “wrong”, and how people are just unbelievably stupid.
Preface: I am not a scientist by degree (yet) nor by trade, but I have Google and like everyone else, that makes me an expert at everything, always.
There are tons of people who write daily about how any type of diet is wrong, bad for you, will probably kill you, can give you every disease known to man, and so forth. Some of these people are scientists, some are nutritionists or dietitians, but most are regular Joes like me. But unlike most of those regular Joes, I do have a training background in science, how to read scientific articles and journals, and how to interpret results, whether they apply to plant sterols or indigenous populations of people in the backwoods of Guinea. I may not always understand the content but I can sure as hell read it, but a lot of people can’t or don’t. They will either rely solely on interpretations of others or read abstracts of papers, which give the most minute indication of what a paper is about and what its outcome was. Both are very prevalent but they make people feel like they know what they’re talking about, which is not necessarily a bad thing but it is once it dupes people into believing they know what they are talking about, in exquisite detail, although they don’t really know any of the science behind it. And this is where “bad and incomplete” science comes into play. People decry studies like those conducted by Dr. Lustig about the extreme dangers of greatly increased sugar intake and its detrimental effects on the body by calling his science “bad”. I don’t even have to really explain this, you can just read all the comments over at Project Syndicate where people are decrying his findings — which are vetted by others in academic journals, meaning they reviewed the material themselves and evaluated it to be true or not — because they think he’s full of it. Sure, he’s overblown on the sugar fear-factor scale a bit but he’s not wrong, overdosing on sugar is going to screw you up, just look at the majority of people who routinely consume soft drinks and look at their body composition, they’re generally fat. By “routinely”, I mean a few times a day, and I certainly understand that there are far more confounding factors at play than simply soda intake. Things like HFCS are slipped into most processed foods produced in America and our bodies have not yet evolved a mechanism to metabolise fake sugar as efficiently as it has regular ol’ fructose , glucose, and galactose found in naturally sweet things like fruit. But there are long standing links, anecdotal and scientific, showing that increased sugar intake screws you up. Just look at American Indian skulls before and after the introduction of Maize into their societies, the amount of dental carries and dental disease skyrockets afterwards.
So, because people have a strong affinity for sweets and love consuming them, all the while being told by the companies like the Corn Refiners Association that “sugar by another name is still sugar”, they just don’t like being told they’re wrong. And because they just love munching on candy, drinking sugar from cans, and eating donuts by the handful, they deem the science “bad”.
This also translates over to the whole paleo movement, which people are bowling each other over to say is based on “bad and incomplete” science. Well, I have a huge but obscenely non-obvious statement for all of you:
Over time, ALL science is incomplete, is potentially bad, and that is the exact NATURE of scientific examination. Deal with it.
This takes literally no amount of thought or rationality to understand, it’s just how it works. Remember when smart people jailed Galileo for hypothesizing and then proving heliocentrism was indeed correct whereas geocentrism wasn’t? Yeah, that’s because the science was incomplete until he proved otherwise. Or that people thought the Earth was flat? Just how many pre-Enlightenment explorers proved that one wrong simply by sailing around the world and living to tell people about it? Even then, the scientific knowledge of the world was grossly incorrect and incomplete. What about something more recent? OK, in September 2011, some scientists from CERN said that some neutrinos could travel faster than the speed of light, thus proving that Einstein’s special theory of relativity was wrong. They even backed it up with reams of documentation and actual experiments! Well, turns out they were wrong and Einstein was not. In fact, their science has been overturned a number of times since September 2011. And remember, these people are smart as hell, smarter than you and me combined.
…How does this relate to diets? It’s the exact same thing, just replace all of that stuff with food, or carbs, or sugar, or macronutrients, or whatever. You can literally substitute anything in there. People are tearing down Lustig for his sugar-scare theory, Taubes for his work on carbohydrates, Jimmy Moore for airing podcasts about nutrition for the last 5+ years that have helped thousands of people lose weight, how the China Study was right and everyone else is wrong, etc., etc. Some commentators argue that the science is “bad and incomplete” based on what others are telling them or they have read from others’ interpretations without consulting the source material themselves — after all, they can’t be blamed for that, everyone does it — and it generally lands on the side of arguing semantics about something, see points #2 and #3 I made at the beginning. Some people argue the science behind it and when they do so, it’s incredibly compelling and interesting to understand how they tested a hypothesis, interpreted the data, or otherwise came to that different conclusion. But the first set of people? They just ramble on, like I’m doing, and assume they are right and justify it by calling the science (and scientist) names. They do this because they’re typically over their heads.
I’m not going to provide links because I have no want to drive any traffic their way but these sites can be found easily by Googling up things about Dr. Jack Kruse, Gary Taubes, et al. But here’s where the complainers are wrong: sometimes science is incomplete but it works without fail. Einstein’s theories only hypothesized that black holes existed but then we built telescopes powerful enough to prove him right. So what about paleo/primal, eating clean, LC, and all the other new fad diets? Well, the proof is in the pudding, as they say.
Richard Nikoley posted this today, where it contains evidence that cutting crap food out of your diet works and works amazingly.
Mark’s Daily Apple, by far the biggest primal blogger there is, has an incredibly long list, complete with pictures and stories about how going primal and cutting out the crap has worked for so many people — a list updated monthly as well. Not only does this prove paleo and primal work, the constant updates proves that it’s continuing to work for a lot of people.
Then there’s this TV show, Biggest Loser, I’m not sure if you’ve heard of it. It’s about to start its fourteenth season, which they’re currently filming parts of now. They have taken hundreds of participants and stuck them on diets at the BL Ranch that are almost always very low carb and low fake sugar, and then proceed to beat the snot out of people with workouts and foods they’re not used to. And guess what? It works incredibly well. In recent seasons, Bob and Jillian have been advocating paleo-style diets while at the Ranch and guess what? It works.
So if all of this paleo business is based on broke, faulty, “bad and incomplete” science, why the hell does it work so effectively? The science behind it may be incomplete — like all scientific studies are, at one point or another — but the results speak for themselves and that’s the most important part of the entire thing.