(This is part 2 of a 2 part series examining a study posted in The Lancet in August 2018 suggesting that low carb diets will increase your chance of dying early. This series will highlight the conduct surrounding the study by the researchers and those who reported on it in the media [Part 1], as well as the technical limitations and flaws of study itself [Part 2].)
In Part 1, we investigated the social and scientific impact of observational studies and the scientists who report them. Specifically, we looked at this study published by The Lancet Public Health: Dietary carbohydrate intake and mortality: a prospective cohort study and meta-analysis
The key takeaways were:
- The Lancet Study is in no way relevant to any modern low carb diet (ie. What the world considers a low carb diet or a ketogenic diet)
- The review process for submitting scientific papers to journals leaves wiggle room for legitimate papers to have a mix of fact and author interpretation of data, as long as the author uses the correct language to distinguish the two. Sometimes this can lead to both misinterpretation of theory as fact by readers (including media outlets).
- Scientists (researchers in general) are humans, at the end of the day, with career, personal and team based motivations. Whether they believe they are doing the right thing or not, their motivations might add an unwarranted bias into scientific literature.
- Everyone should learn to examine studies from various angles in order to come to their own conclusion. Don’t just listen to MY interpretation of it. Try to consider potential motivations of the authors, spot misleading information and behavior, acknowledge your own own biases as a reader, and maybe even try your hand at analyzing the technical details of a study.
In part 2, we will be doing just that. We will critically look at how the study was designed and how the author’s interpreted the data. Here are some of the points we will touch upon:
- Review of what an epidemiology study’s actual purpose is
- Where the Lancet study’s data came from
- Whether or not their data is reliable
- The supposed impracticality, suggested by the author, of directly studying low carb diets against mortality
- The real long-term effects of low carb diets in contrast to all other diets