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.
Comments on Georgia Ede: Brainwashed — The Mainstreaming of Nutritional Mythology
It would be great if you included captions on your video. While I am not deaf, I belong to a fitness group with over 16k members. I'd love for them to be able to enjoy the video as well. As a suggestion, you could use YouTube to offer the video and turn on the automatic closed captions. While not as accurate, they do a pretty good job. Thank you! OH, and if you do this, please let me know and I'll share it!
Hey, Joseph: thank you for pointing this out. We’ve turned on the YouTube captioning. Also, we provide transcripts for our lecture videos, as linked in the post above, for those who would like to read along.
Dr Ede is one of the most honestly curious researchers out there. We are so lucky to have her spend time going through these nutrition reports with such thoughtfulness. She is not bombastic or polarizing, which I think makes her powerful in a special way. Her take on the EAT Lancet is the best out there. I greatly appreciate her wisdom. In her piece for Psychology Today (1/19/2019), which details the issues with the EAT Lancet report, she breaks down each claim and the points out inconsistencies, errors or faulty assumptions. This is my favorite:
8. Everyone should eat a vegan diet, except for most people
"Although their diet plan is intended for all “generally healthy individuals aged two years and older,” the authors admit it falls short of providing proper nutrition for growing children, adolescent girls, pregnant women, aging adults, the malnourished, and the impoverished — and that even those not within these special categories will need to take supplements to meet their basic requirements.
Sadder still is the fact that the majority of people in this country and in many other countries around the world are no longer metabolically healthy, and this high-carbohydrate plan doesn’t take them into consideration.
'In controlled feeding studies, high carbohydrate intake increases blood triglyceride concentrations, reduces HDL [aka “good”] cholesterol concentration, and increases blood pressure, especially in people with insulin resistance.” [page 12]
For those of us with insulin resistance (aka “pre-diabetes”) whose insulin levels tend to run too high, the Commission’s high-carbohydrate diet — based on up to 60% of calories from whole grains, in addition to fruits and starchy vegetables — is potentially dangerous. The Commission half-acknowledges this by recommending that even healthy people limit consumption of starchy roots like potatoes and cassava flour due to their high glycemic index, but oddly does not mention grain and legume flours, or high glycemic index fruits, leaving the door open for processed food companies to market products like pasta, cereal and juice beverages to its plant-based planet. High insulin levels strongly increase the risk for numerous chronic diseases and can mean a lifetime of medications, disability, and early death. If the Commission read its own report it would find support for the notion that those of us with metabolic damage may be better off increasing our meat intake and decreasing our carbohydrate intake:
“In a large controlled feeding trial, replacing carbohydrate isocalorically with protein reduced blood pressure and blood lipid concentrations.” [page 8]
This was the 2005 OmniHeart trial, which used 50% plant protein and 50% animal protein. It would seem the only people who should eat a vegan diet are people who make the informed choice to eat a vegan diet, despite the risks.”
That’s just one point. The whole thing is so, so good. Definitely worth the read if you haven’t already.
Thanks for sharing. It's great to see how Coach Glassman's goal of the website to be for "anyone who has a brain" take shape.
The bit about going straight to the methods section of nutrition studies to see the actual food that each control group is being fed is a useful tool to better understand studies from the outset.
Georgia Ede: Brainwashed — The Mainstreaming of Nutritional Mythology5