Don’t be fooled by bad science
We’ve all seen the headlines trumpeting how a new study has found that some food or nutrient is either going to kill you or cure you. Followed by headlines stating the exact opposite.
It’s tempting to call this whiplash effect “fake news”—and sometimes, that’s certainly the case. But it can also be due to “bad science.” Which is actually more common than you may think.
Studies can have flaws in connections, logic, or conclusions. And, as my friend and colleague, Nobel laureate Baruch Blumberg, always counseled, biological plausibility should always come into play.
For instance, a study may be accurate, but may reach certain conclusions that contradict other scientific findings. This outcome could be caused by inappropriate sample sizing, or a flawed design. But readers—and even many licensed doctors—don’t know all of this, and that’s where the confusion begins.
That’s why it’s important that “controversial” studies be dissected by experts, who can analyze the mechanisms and conclusions and put them in context. Unfortunately, that rarely happens before the headlines have done their damage.
And with so much information floating around in today’s hyper-communicative world, it can be easy to forget what’s real and what’s not when it comes to the latest research. But as an Insiders’ Cures reader, you know it’s my mission to sift through all the science and expose the real truth.
That’s why I’m recapping some of the worst headlines and conclusions of 2019.
My top four “bad science” studies of the last year
Bad Science Claim #1
Fish oil supplements don’t reduce risk of cardiovascular disease.
Scientific American is a popular publication for a general audience that, for some reason, published an article in August 2019 claiming that fish oil supplements are not effective against cardiovascular disease.1
The author claimed, “After decades of promises that they ‘may work’ to reduce cardiovascular disease, the lack of a demonstrated benefit leads me to conclude that consumers are wasting their money.”
But, as you can see by the editor’s note added five days after the article was published, the author “erroneously” failed to reveal that he was a paid researcher on 10 studies underwritten by the makers of a prescription fish oil that directly competes with over-the-counter fish oil supplements!
I’m not going to question who was at fault here. But I will tackle the faulty science…
I’ve studied the fish oil debate from actual scientific studies, and have concluded that most studies use doses that are much too low. But when you supplement with even barely adequate doses, let alone optimal doses of fish oil, the health benefits become clear.
In fact, over a year before this article appeared, I published dosing guidelines based on the real science, as well as what to look for in a quality fish-oil supplement. (Check out the June 2018 issue of Insiders’ Cures.)
Most people need 5 to 6 grams of fish oil daily. That’s a far higher dosage than the vast majority of studies use—particularly the ones that erroneously report that omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil don’t help prevent cardiovascular disease. And you must always check the label of your fish oil supplement to ensure you are getting high enough concentrations of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA.
Bad Science Claim #2
Dietary supplements won’t prolong your life.
In May 2019, a team of scientists from Tufts University in Boston published a study in the Annals of Internal Medicine concluding that all supplements are essentially worthless.2
The researchers based their findings on an analysis of survey data gathered from more than 27,000 people over a six-year period. They said their analysis showed that the people who took supplements had about the same risk of dying as those who got their nutrients from food sources alone.
But this kind of data is unstable methodologically. Findings were not drawn from a strong study, like a clinical trial. And they looked at doses that, again, were simply way too low, according to the real science.
In fact, this study actually confirms the science showing that the correct, optimal doses of dietary supplements do work, and doses that are too low don’t work.
Not to mention, the vague “dietary supplements” category includes a dominant, huge number of multivitamin supplements that really are worthless, or nearly so, according to real science. They typically contain the wrong ingredients, in the wrong doses, in the wrong combinations. And they can typically be low-quality to boot.
But, even in this mishmash of a study that lumps supplement users of any and all kinds together as one, the vitamin takers were still found to do better on the whole.
The researchers couldn’t let that stand, though. So they performed statistical manipulations to make their own findings of the supplement benefits seemingly disappear.
And they concluded that people who took supplements were healthier not because of the supplements, but because they actually also had a better diet and lifestyle. But what about the researchers’ other claim that people who don’t take supplements supposedly get adequate “nutrients from food alone?” There was no evidence regarding that conclusion at all!
Unfortunately, this illogical, weak study’s bad-faith claim about supplements being worthless was broadcast high and low. When in reality, this “finding” is directly contradicted by thousands of much better studies demonstrating the benefits of supplementation for prevention and reversal of a host of health conditions.
Bottom line? Smart supplementation is perfectly healthy for anyone, and absolutely necessary for many. And as an Insiders’ Cures reader, you can search all of my past articles for specific supplement recommendations.
Bad Science Claim #3
Vitamin D supplements aren’t necessary.
Over the years, I’ve shared hundreds of studies showing that vitamin D (in the right doses) can help prevent infection, inflammation, pain, osteoporosis, autoimmune and neurodegenerative disorders (like dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson’s disease), depression and other mood issues, cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.
That’s quite an impressive list. But an April 2019 WebMD article titled “Is Vitamin D Hype ‘Wishful Thinking’?” reviewed studies that appeared to question D’s benefits. A doctor quoted in the article concluded that for people with “normal” levels of vitamin D, supplementation is not necessary.
But this is problematic for a variety of reasons. First of all, what’s considered to be “normal,” according to old standards, is certainly not “optimal” according to current science. In fact, as I’ve reported before, researchers have found that as many as 80 percent of American adults are deficient or insufficient in vitamin D (defined as blood levels between 50 nmol/L and 75 nmol/L).
Secondly, the article said that the best way to get vitamin D is “to go outside and get some sun.” Which is a great suggestion, unless you live north of the latitude of Atlanta or San Diego—where, from October to March, the sun’s ultraviolet rays don’t penetrate the atmosphere enough to allow your body to produce its own vitamin D.
Not to mention, if you’re 65 or older, your skin may have diminishing capacity to synthesize vitamin D through sun exposure. Plus, some people still require more vitamin D than sun exposure allows, and there are drugs and medical conditions that can deplete levels.
The truth is, many people who try to get some sun, eat right, and take supplements at the woefully low government-recommended dosages still have suboptimal levels of D when their blood is tested.
So don’t believe the “wishful thinking” in this article. Ask your doctor to test your vitamin D levels. Again, your levels should be between 50 nmol/L and 75 nmol/L. And start supplementing with 10,000 IU of D daily to truly achieve and maintain these “optimal” levels year-round.
Bad Science Claim #4
Eat fake meats.
Early in 2019, the clueless United Nations, in conjunction with global scientists and the Lancet medical journal in the U.K., launched the EAT-Lancet Commission’s “planetary health diet.”4
This plant-based diet is supposedly a solution for the skyrocketing rates of chronic diseases and obesity, in addition to “saving the planet” from the chimera of “climate change.”
But none of this is based on any real science. For instance, we now know our modern health problems are primarily related to refined sugars, carbs, and ultra-processed food. And we can combat them by substituting these unhealthy foods for healthy, fresh, whole foods.
The truth is, people consuming the EAT-Lancet diet miss out on healthy animal proteins and fats found in meat, fish, and dairy. And the plant-based “fake meats” they’re supposed to eat instead often contain artificial and processed ingredients.
Of course, when you follow the money, it’s crony-corporatist big-food conglomerates that are supporting this global dietary misinformation campaign. They see that people are finally catching onto the problems of refined sugars and carbs, so they’re promoting profitable, refined, ultra-processed fake foods instead.
Big food predicts continued profits from these pseudo-“virtuous” foods, made from their cheap “plant-based” ingredients (which would be better composted than consumed). And although these fake foods taste terrible and ruin your health, you’re supposed to “sacrifice” and eat them anyway, because they’re supposedly good for the environment.
But I’m here to tell you…don’t waste your time and money with this garbage. Instead, consume a balanced diet that includes plenty of real fruits and vegetables, along with full-fat dairy, fish, and, yes…nutritious and delicious meat.
Now, you may find your doctor citing the studies we discussed here today. But even the best doctors are sometimes influenced by the crony-corporatist medical industry, which has become better at PR than at real science.
Which is why I’ll continue to keep you in the know and bring you the real, good science in these pages—and in my Daily Dispatches—throughout the year…and for years to come.
2“Association Among Dietary Supplement Use, Nutrient Intake, and Mortality Among U.S. Adults: A Cohort Study.” Ann Intern Med. 2019 May 7;170(9):604-613.
5“Cardiovascular effect of discontinuing statins for primary prevention at the age of 75 years: a nationwide population-based cohort study in France.” Eur Heart J. 2019 Nov 14;40(43):3516-3525.
6“Statin Use Over 65 Years of Age and All-Cause Mortality: A 10-Year Follow-Up of 19 518 People.” J Am Geriatr Soc. 2019 Oct;67(10):2038-2044.