What this dietitian hopes we don’t see in 2016.

This is the time of year when we look back with nostalgia on the year’s best happenings.  But, I am looking back on the year and hoping that we don’t have to revisit a few things in 2016. Here is what this dietitian hopes the New Year doesn’t bring.

  1. Shaming researchers who choose to use industry dollars to fund a needed project. My colleague, Roseanne Rust, recently wrote about this in her insightful blog post (http://chewthefacts.com/when-did-awordfromyoursponsor-become-so-uncool/). As a faculty member with a 30-year tenure at a research university, I know that not all research can be funded by the government or a foundation. So researchers respond to requests for proposals (RFPs) from industry or seek out funds from businesses whose research questions align with what they are interested in studying. If I want to know if recovery drink X will help athletes after a hard workout, the maker of that recovery drink might be interested in funding my research. That does not mean that the industry influenced my research design, my recruitment of subjects, or, most importantly, the results. To listen to the anti-industry people, industry funded research favors the industry. You hardly ever hear about industry funded studies that did NOT favor the industry, but they exist (https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2015/08/07/the-butter-industry-probably-regrets-paying-for-this-study-that-shows-butter-is-bad-for-you/). The worst is when a researcher’s reputation is called into question with comments such as, “we don’t know how much money went into his or her pocket from the industry funded study.” Let me tell you how much money goes into a researcher pocket…zero, zilch, nothing. When a university accepts funding for research (note I said the university, not the researcher) a faculty member might get released from teaching one course, be able to purchase much needed equipment for the university’s lab, or support graduate students with small stipends, tuition reimbursement and the opportunity to learn how to conduct research in an ethical and responsible manner. We need private-public partnerships to answer many research questions that would not get answered if private industry did not fund research. Instead of dismissing an industry funded study, look at the research design and then look at where it was published. Research doesn’t just appear in a journal; it has to get vetted (the peer review process) before it gets in print.
  2. Silly slide shows that tout “5 foods to eat for perfect skin,” “10 foods to put your child to sleep,” “10 foods to avoid before boarding a plane,” “7 super foods to lose belly fat,” or “8 best foods for stronger nails.” These are all real headlines that popped up on my home page in the last couple of weeks. I know we have a short attention span, but offering these silly slide shows as news content is absurd. This is not evidence-based nutrition science, just something to fill space and most often promote someone’s bias or a product they happen to like.
  3. Thinking that because the word “free” is placed behind a word that is healthy. This Jimmy Kimmel clips shows that people who use gluten-free foods for weight loss don’t even know what gluten is. (https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=jimmy+kimmel+gluten+free+youtube&view=detail&mid=491C3518D68C2D85B6A6491C3518D68C2D85B6A6&FORM=VIRE1). The best part is when he says “that some people don’t eat gluten because someone in their yoga class told them not to.” Every dietitian has experienced this moment, when friends or family start telling us about their latest diet secret, even though we know there is no scientific reason for it and that we know that this new diet won’t last more than a few weeks (or just enough time for a 10-pound weight loss that will be regained within the year.)

I hope things change for the better in 2016 and that we all get a little wiser this year.