Blog | Wednesday, October 21, 2015

An open letter to the BMJ regarding us dietary guidance

Dear Editors:

I am rather stunned that the BMJ published a journalist's commentary about the work of the 2015 United States Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee as if it were an authoritative rebuttal. It's as if someone selling horse paperweights is invited to critique the Olympic equestrian team. It is, in a word, absurd, and testimony to the breakdown in integrity where science and media come together.

With all due respect to the author, she is not a nutrition expert, and not a scientist. She is a journalist herself, and one with a book to sell. She refers to bias, but fails to highlight her own. If the DGAC report is valid, it calls into question her own conclusions, as well it should. She may therefore have suspect motives in seeking discredit this work.

The same author wrote much the same in the New York Times, and I was stunned then, as now, that what was once rarefied territory for truly expert opinion is being allocated so indiscriminately. The notion that the opinion of 1 journalist with a book to sell is in any way a suitable counterweight to the conclusions of a diverse, multidisciplinary, independent group of scientists who reviewed evidence for the better part of two years and relied upon knowledge and judgment cultivated over decades of relevant work is nearly surreal. It is a disservice to the readership in both cases.

The DGAC very correctly draws conclusions from the weight of evidence, including diverse trials, and the real-world experience of large populations, such as the Blue Zones. They very appropriately address a critical issue of our time: sustainability. The author seems inclined to ignore that altogether; perhaps she does not care whether there is anything for the next generation to eat or drink, but I suspect most of us do.

The DGAC report is excellent, and represents both the weight of evidence, and global consensus among experts. It is entirely in line with the persuasive experience of Blue Zone populations. It is the work of people who are actually qualified to address this topic. It is in accord with my own efforts to review relevant literature without bias for a commissioned paper.

I don't care what diet is best for health; I don't have a diet to sell. But I do care about truth, and its dissemination. The positioning of one journalist's opinion, and a journalist with abundant cause for bias at that, as a legitimate counterweight to the consensus of an independent, and quite illustrious scientific panel is a discredit to the BMJ, and something of an assault on the trust of your readers. Perhaps expertise, recognition of it and respect for it, are truly dead.

This commentary is not authoritative. It is not a counterweight. It is, at best, a paperweight. I am sorry to say its prominent placement on your editor's desk redounds to your discredit.

Sincerely yours,

David L. Katz, MD, FACP, MPH, FACPM, is an internationally renowned authority on nutrition, weight management, and the prevention of chronic disease, and an internationally recognized leader in integrative medicine and patient-centered care. He is a board certified specialist in both Internal Medicine, and Preventive Medicine/Public Health, and Associate Professor (adjunct) in Public Health Practice at the Yale University School of Medicine. He is the Director and founder (1998) of Yale University's Prevention Research Center; Director and founder of the Integrative Medicine Center at Griffin Hospital (2000) in Derby, Conn.; founder and president of the non-profit Turn the Tide Foundation; and formerly the Director of Medical Studies in Public Health at the Yale School of Medicine for eight years. This post originally appeared on his blog at The Huffington Post.