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NORC News

Brown and Allison use crowdsourcing to evaluate published scientific literature

October 2, 2014

Andrew W Brown, Ph.D.

Humans prepare and consume food daily, and such repeated exposure creates a widespread, superficial familiarity with nutrition, based on individual and cultural perspectives that may give rise to beliefs not grounded in scientific evidence.

In a summary of the symposium presented at the American Society for Nutrition (ASN) Scientific Sessions and Annual Meeting at Experimental Biology 2014Andrew W. Brown, PhD, Scientist in the Office of Energetics—in collaboration with David B. Allison, PhD, Director of the Nutrition Obesity Research Center (NORC), and other researchers—discusses accumulated work illustrating and quantifying potentially misleading practices in the conduct and, more so, in the reporting of nutrition science along with proposed approaches to amelioration.

The researchers begin by defining “unscientific beliefs” and from where such beliefs may come and then discuss how large bodies of nutritional epidemiologic observations not only create highly improbable patterns of association but implausible magnitudes of implied effect. Poor reporting practices, biases, and methodological issues that have distorted scientific understandings of nutrition are presented, followed by potential influences of conflicts of interest that extend beyond financial considerations.

They conclude with recommendations for improving the conduct, reporting, and communication of nutrition-related research to ground discussions in evidence rather than solely on beliefs.

To read “Unscientific Beliefs about Scientific Topics in Nutrition,” published in September 2014 in the journal Advances in Nutrition, click here.