Georgia Ede, MD, is a nutritional psychiatrist who is “passionate about the care — the proper care and feeding of the human brain,” she tells the audience at a CrossFit Health event on Dec. 15, 2019. During her presentation, Ede delineates the various ways authoritative bodies such as the USDA and World Health Organization (WHO), through their spread of unscientific dietary guidelines that are rife with misinformation, have complicated her efforts to help patients eat healthfully.
“Public health, and public mental health in particular, is a mess,” Ede explains. She attributes this fact to the widespread use of nutritional epidemiology. “The lion’s share of studies that wind up in our guidelines and our headlines come from this type of study,” even though nutritional epidemiology “is not science at all,” she claims. When tested in a clinical setting, the outcomes of epidemiological studies are wrong 80 percent of the time, she notes. The odds are worse than a coin toss, which she says indicates the questions epidemiological studies are asking are “biased in the wrong direction, away from the truth.”
The problem with epidemiology is that “you are forced to generate data out of thin air.” She continues: “These wild guesses become the data that then form these … hypothetical associations between specific foods and specific diseases.”
One specific hypothetical association with which Ede takes issue is the association of animal products with a litany of diseases, and by extension, the claim that plant-based diets provide optimal nutrition. Ede is “convinced by the science that the way that people should eat, the brain prefers to eat, is to eat a pre-agricultural, whole foods diet that includes animal protein and animal fat, and that if you have insulin resistance, high insulin levels, high blood sugar levels, you may benefit from a low-carbohydrate or ketogenic version of that same diet.” Nevertheless, recommendations against consuming meat and in favor of consuming plant-based diets are becoming more and more prevalent. In the last few years, these ideas have been built into dietary guidelines that affect the eating habits of millions of people around the world.
Ede shares what she found when she analyzed, in painstaking detail, the data behind dietary recommendations in three authoritative documents. She found the anti-meat messaging promulgated by recent U.S. Dietary Guidelines, the influential WHO report on meat and cancer, and the 2019 EAT-Lancet report can more accurately be said to be based on nutrition mythology than science.
Ede details the various “unscrupulous tactics” the documents use to support their anti-meat messaging. These tactics include fearmongering, cherry-picking data and studies, and the spread of blatant misinformation about what the research conveys. Drawing on the work of French philosopher Jacques Ellul, she compares the dietary guidelines to propaganda and notes the EAT-Lancet report, in particular, may be unduly influenced by partnerships with corporations whose interests run contrary to a “whole foods agenda.”
“It matters if authorities get this science wrong,” Ede explains before noting she consults daily with parents whose children refuse to eat animal products due to anti-meat messages they hear in school. She claims she is seeing an increase in nutrient deficiencies as more people begin following the U.S., WHO, and EAT-Lancet recommendations for a plant-based diet.
“These unscientific documents become the standard of care,” she explains. She concludes by offering her own recommendations for those who wish to navigate the nutrition science for themselves: “You should always start from a position of extreme skepticism, because most nutrition science is really not worth the paper it is printed on.”
To read a full transcript of the presentation, click here.