Politico reports that the BMJ will not retract “controversial” dietary guidelines article by Nina Teicholz, author of New York Times best-seller, The Big Fat Surprise
Via Politico’s Morning Agriculture (MA) blog, Teicholz said she was notified of the journal’s decision after it conducted a months-long review:
A controversial article questioning the science behind the U.S. Dietary Guidelines that appeared in the British Medical Journal a year ago today won’t be retracted, its author, Nina Teicholz, tells MA. “The BMJ has informed me, in writing, that they have made the decision not to retract the article,” Teicholz said in an email.
Teicholz was quoted in another article by Retraction Watch as saying that outside reviewers found that her criticism of the methods used by the DGAC “[is] within the realm of scientific discussion, and [is] therefore not grounds for retraction.”
The news comes exactly one year after the BMJ published “The scientific report guiding the US Dietary Guidelines: is it scientific?”, Teicholz’s September 23, 2015 article criticising the methodology and findings of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC).
As reported on this blog and on The Sidebar (Atlanta, GA reporter Peter M. Heimlich’s top drawer website), Washington DC-based advocacy non-profit, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), aggressively campaigned to get the article retracted.
Leading the charge was CSPI’s Director of Nutrition Bonnie Liebman, who in her September 23, 2015 opening salvo called Teicholz’s article an “error-laden attack” on the 2015 DGAC report:
The DGAC’s advice is consistent with dietary advice from virtually every major health authority [but] Teicholz would have us believe that only she, not the dozens of experts who systematically reviewed the evidence for these health authorities, has the smarts to accurately interpret this evidence.
On November 5, a letter organised by Liebman was sent to the BMJ highlighting what it claimed were a number of factual errors with Teicholz’s article.
The letter, which was signed by over 180 credentialed professionals, including a number of prominent faculty members at major universities, plus all 14 members of the 2015 DGAC, urged the BMJ to retract the article on the basis that it harmed the journal’s credibility.
However, the credibility of the letter was itself soon called into question.
As reported by the Guardian in April, none of the signatories interviewed for Ian Leslie’s acclaimed article, “The Sugar Conspiracy” – including Dr. Meir Stampfer, an influential Harvard epidemiologist – were able to name any of the “trivial” errors with Teicholz’s article, with one even admitting he had not read it.
But the most explosive revelation came in May, when Peter – with help from my sweetie Kelsi White and I – exposed efforts by another Harvard epidemiologist, DGAC member Dr. Frank Hu, to solicit European signatures to Liebman’s retraction demand which resulted in a chain e-mail exchanged by European medical professionals and university faculty.
You can read more about that, and other related items, via Peter’s blog here, here and here.
Until the BMJ releases its findings, it’s unclear whether the journal will make corrections to Teicholz’s article, but here’s what Teicholz, Liebman, and BMJ editor in chief Fiona Godlee told Retraction Watch:
“The BMJ’s decision vindicates the view that it’s important to have open debate and discussion over scientific issues, especially when they have such an oversized impact on public health, and even when large, vested interests are at stake” – Nina Teicholz
“Until [the review is released], we really don’t know the end of the story. It would be a shame if the media handled the story as if the case is closed, when really it isn’t…
“…I’m frustrated. It’s been a year since the original article was published, and more than 10 months since more than 180 scientists called for a retraction…Here we are in September, and we still have heard nothing” – Bonnie Liebman
“You can be sure that we will let you know as soon as our review of this matter is complete, which we hope will be very soon” – Fiona Godlee
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The truth does sometimes hurt.