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To Your Health: NLM update Transcript

Is nutrition research implausible?: 11/13/2018

Greetings from the National Library of Medicine and MedlinePlus.gov

Regards to all our listeners!

I'm Rob Logan, Ph.D., senior staff, U.S. National Library of Medicine (NLM).

Here is what's new this week in To Your Health, a consumer health-oriented podcast from NLM, that helps you use MedlinePlus to follow up on weekly topics.

Nutrition research has become scientifically implausible and needs significant reform led by its top researchers, suggests an illuminating viewpoint recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

John Ioannidis M.D., the viewpoint's author (and Stanford University professor) writes (and we quote): '...the emerging picture of nutritional epidemiology is difficult to reconcile with good scientific principles. The field needs radical reform' (end of quote).

Ioannidis, a leading critic of health and medical research's empirical foundation, suggests most current nutrition research seems scientifically implausible.

Ioannidis writes (and we quote): 'for a baseline life expectancy of 80 years, nonexperts presented only with relative risks may falsely infer that eating 12 hazelnuts daily (one oz) would prolong life by 12 years (i.e. one year per hazelnut), drinking three cups of coffee daily would achieve a similar gain of 12 extra years, and eating a single mandarin orange daily (80g) would add five years of life. Conversely, consuming one egg daily would reduce life expectancy by six years, and eating two slices of bacon (30g) would shorten life by a decade, an effect worse than smoking' (end of quote).

Among other examples of implausibility, Ioannidis explains (and we quote): 'risk conferring nutritional combinations may vary by an individual's genetic background, metabolic profile, age, or environmental experiences. Disentangling the potential influence on health outcomes of a single dietary component from these other variables is challenging, if not impossible' (end of quote).

Ioannidis agrees with a recent report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that criticizes current nutritional guidelines and suggests an array of research reforms.

Ioannidis writes the National Academies report suggests (and we quote): 'improving (nutrition research) transparency, promoting diversity of expertise and experience, supporting a more deliberative process, managing biases and conflicts, and adopting state-of-the-art processes' (end of quote).

However, Ioannidis suggests the leadership to make needed changes already exists among nutrition scientists. He writes (and we quote): 'The nutrition epidemiology community includes superb scientists. The best of them should take ownership of this reform process' (end of quote).

Ioannidis concludes leading nutrition scientists should begin by correcting some of the misleading claims in their own research.

More conventionally, the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services provide an overview of evidence-based nutritional information in the 'start here' section of MedlinePlus.gov's nutrition health topic page. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration provides a guide to food ingredients as well as additives and colors within the 'related issues' section of MedlinePlus.gov's nutrition health topic page.

Of course, if Dr. Ioannidis and the National Academies are correct, the information on these websites may change in forthcoming years.

In the interim, links to the latest pertinent journal research articles about nutrition are available in the 'journal articles' section of MedlinePlus.gov's nutrition health topic page. Links to relevant clinical trials that may be occurring in your area also are available in the 'clinical trials' section.

To find MedlinePlus.gov's nutrition health topic page, please type 'nutrition' in the search box on MedlinePlus.gov's home page, then, click on 'nutrition (National Library of Medicine).' MedlinePlus.gov also contains health topic pages on: child nutrition; infant and newborn nutrition; nutrition for seniors; and food safety.

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A disclaimer — the information presented in this program should not replace the medical advice of your physician. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any disease without first consulting with your physician or other health care provider.

It was nice to be with you. Please join us here next week and here's to your health!